CoursesDrawing the Blue Line: Police and Power in American Popular Culture
COMM 3280-301

Drawing the Blue Line: Police and Power in American Popular Culture

The police are one of the most heavily imagined institutions in American popular culture. From Cagney and Lacey to Colors, Law & Order, The Wire and The Watchmen, evolving depictions of law enforcement help us to understand larger socio-cultural shifts that have occurred from the post-1968 riots to the dawn of the Black Lives Matter movement in the mid-2010s and police abolition in the early 2020s.

Mondays and Wednesdays, 1:45 PM – 3:15 PM

Using case study and textual analysis approaches, students will examine how specific police procedurals, movies, and other cultural texts showcase police authority in relation to certain communities, and consider how these texts reflect, uphold and/or challenge prevailing views on law and order and criminal justice. Our explorations of how media and cultural industries have framed policing will pay particular attention to questions of power, race, gender, sexuality, class, and geography. These explorations will also include learning about and learning to dialogue, given the diverse – and often contentious – views about policing in America. Students will have an opportunity to interact with speakers representing different positions that relate to mediated perceptions — as well as lived experiences of — policing. Class assignments and activities will enhance students’ abilities to productively discuss complex issues that are frequently sanitized or homogenized within U.S. popular culture.

Sample Syllabus

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