While many are finally starting to recognize that gender is a spectrum, there is still, unfortunately, a lingering belief that “men should be men.”
And with toxic masculinity in full swing these days, it’s more important than ever to squash those stereotypes.
Enter: Sergeant Terry Jeffords of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
On the outside, Terry has all the qualities of the traditional “Alpha-male.” He’s strong, built out of pure muscle, is a high-ranking leader, and has no problem raising his voice to get a job done when the time calls for it. On the surface, he’s a walking definition of masculinity.
But there’s so much more to him than big muscles.
Terry loves yogurt (seriously, don’t take the man’s yogurt), trips to the farmer’s market, and absolutely adores his wife to the point where he puts her on a pedestal. It’s also not uncommon for him to talk about his love for fashion (his suspenders in particular), share stories of surviving racial profiling, and open up about his love of therapy (which is particularly significant for black men to talk about).
Terry is somehow the both picture-perfect example and the antithesis of traditional masculinity all rolled in one. He shows emotion and vulnerability but he can also kick some serious ass when he needs to.
Having someone like Sergeant Jeffords on network television is a great first step in helping to evolve and rewrite the definition of masculinity.
Cis men are taught from an early age that men don’t cry, told to “rub some dirt in it” when they get hurt, and are encouraged to stay strong despite how difficult things get. But Terry’s depiction of masculinity has the ability to inspire fans — regardless of gender — to create new expectations for what it means to be a man.
Every week, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has millions of viewers and has the potential to reach young cis men and teach them that it’s normal to have feelings and okay to struggle with them. Terry can also serve show anyone in a relationship with a man that there’s no excuse to accept the “boys will be boys” narrative. And, of course, Sergeant Jeffords is a reminder that just because someone looks like your typical guys-guy, doesn’t mean that he is.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has so many characters with wonderful traits that we could probably write a novel about why society is better off with it on TV (not to mention, it’s hilarious).
But Terry is particularly underrated because he’s not an obvious plot device to demonstrate “progressiveness” by a network. Rather, he’s a well-developed character who provides a perfect example of the fluidity of gender. Because gender isn’t about being trendy and defying social norms, it’s simply about being a human with likes and dislikes, emotions, struggles, and, for some people, a love of yogurt, working out, and cool AF suspenders.
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Feature photo by John P. Fleenor for NBC