Ava Olson

Fictional Cops, Real Brutality: The Police Procedural as Propaganda

How do fictional cops enable and validate real police brutality? My research surveys a wide selection of procedural television from the 1950s to the present, examining each show in its context to understand the cultural, political, and sociological work done by narratives that cast police officers as “good guys” in a reality where that may not be the case. From standard procedurals like The Rookies to more modern, “progressive” programs like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I hope to examine how television manufactures consent among the American public to justify over-policing and its consequences. Using policing as a starting point, I aim to investigate the greater American attitude towards violence and how violence in the United States is evaluated as either acceptable or excessive. This project will take an interdisciplinary approach that synthesizes history, folklore studies, legal studies/criminology, sociology, media studies, and political science to understand how effective propaganda is created and what that propaganda creates.

Message to Sponsor

I want to extend my gratitude to the Adam Z. Rice Foundation for supporting this project. From what Professor Christine Palmer has told me, I understand that Adam was a remarkably warm, curious, and thoughtful person. I am humbled by the opportunity to honor his memory and legacy within the American Studies program at Berkeley.
  • Major: American Studies
  • Sponsor: Rice Foundation
  • Mentor: Christine Palmer