The #MeToo social media phenomenon just jumped to an unlikely new medium – TV comedy

After watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine's #MeToo episode, We Are Social's Suzie Shaw realised how far the movement really has come.

The most recent #MeToo episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine (B99) is a brilliant piece of television and demonstrates just how far we’ve come since October 2017, when Harvey Weinstein’s dirty laundry was first aired. It takes a big swing at the whole tawdry topic, and knocks it out of the park.

For non-fans of B99 (shame on you), it’s a sitcom set in a Brooklyn police station. The main characters are cops Jake and Amy, who are partnered in work and now life… following a protracted and hilarious courtship.

In this most recent episode, they’re handed a ‘he said, she said’ (title of the episode) case to investigate, with a finance bro getting his ‘dong broken’ after he’s attacked by a female co-worker who claims that he tried to sexually assault her.

In just 21 minutes, the show humorously, elegantly and poignantly explores the many complex facets of the issue: will the victim be believed when it’s just her word against his, should she risk blowing the whistle when to do so puts her job at risk, even if she’s believed does she want to be redefined as a victim or even a traitor, and should feminism or realism win out in the decision on whether to fight?

The show’s characteristic use of humour makes the issue highly accessible and relatable, in ways it perhaps hasn’t been before.

For women, Amy’s experiences and reflections help to underline how frequently many women still face sexism. I’d defy any woman not to identify with some of the examples Amy refers to, from a sexualised ‘compliment’ from her barista, to not being taken seriously in her job because she’s a woman. It also makes a very strong case for taking a stand, in order to give others the confidence to speak up.

For men, Jake sets a very good example for how an ally can provide support, through active listening, and validating a victim’s feelings.

And whilst the show highlights an issue that is still frightfully common, I’m buoyed by reflecting on just how far we’ve come in only 18 months.

This is amazingly rapid progress, and could almost certainly not have taken place so quickly without the role social media has played. The #MeToo hashtag has united women on this issue, amplified their stories, and given a voice to people who previously felt silenced and alone.

With 25 million uses of the hashtag on Twitter alone, the viral #MeToo movement is – in real-time – forging a new social norm, which says it’s not okay to be sexist. It has given us a language and a forum to talk about experiences that were once unspoken. And it has given us new role models, encouraging us to stand up and put a stop to behaviours that are not okay.

Bringing these issues to light can create its own problems, and give rise to unintended negative consequences. And the show didn’t shy away from that. But in the words of B99’s Rosa Diaz: “Two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward.”

Suzie Shaw is We Are Social’s managing director.


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