Stereotypes in the Media


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I choose the Netflix series, Seven Seconds, to examine stereotypes on television and to see if it promotes prejudice and discrimination. Seven Seconds is a crime thriller about crooked cops covering up a hit and run accident (Sud, 2018). The first episode debuted February 23, 2018 (Sud, 2018).

This thriller begins with knowing exactly who did it. Pete Jablonski, a Jersey City cop, is rushing through a park on his way to the hospital to meet his pregnant wife, when he hits something in the road. When he gets out of the car to see what he hit, he noticed a crushed bicycle in the snow underneath his car. In complete disarray, the first person he called was his boss, a police sergeant of the narcotics division. The sergeant, Mike Diangelo, arrived with two other colleagues, Felix Osorio and Gary Wilcox, to assess the situation. While assessing the scene, Mike noticed a bloody trail leading a few feet away from the embankment. On the other side of the embankment, he discovered a black teenage boy lying in tinged bloody snow. Instead of reporting the incident, he told his crew that they were going to cover it up. He did not want one of his own going to prison for killing a black boy. He was also convinced that, in the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement, it would paint an unfair image of the police department if word got out that a white cop ran over a black teen, even though it was an accident and Peter didn’t mean to hit him. Pete was about to be a first time dad and did not want to go to prison so he went along with his sergeant. Pete and the crew thought he was dead anyway. It only took “seven seconds” for Pete to hit the black teen on a bicycle and make the decision to cover it up (Sud, 2018).

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The young black teen, Brenton Butler, did not die. His injuries were very severe and he was in a deep coma. You did not see him much in the series but his name was carried throughout the entire show and he was not forgotten. Brenton was the son of a middle class black couple. His mom, Latrice, was a private school teacher and his dad, Isaiah worked at a slaughterhouse. They were devout Christians and struggled with their faith throughout the series.

No one knew why Brenton was in the park that morning but the entire show tried to depict him as a thug and drug dealer. They also tried to characterize him as a “bad” kid because he skipped school that day. Brenton was heading to school when the accident occurred, therefore he didn’t make it to school. While his mom stayed by his side in the hospital, Mike was devising a plan to pin the hit and run on another person. Pete was struggling very hard with this because he wanted to do the right thing but was outnumbered by his crew. Since they helped cover it up; they would be in trouble too and they all would be going down for a crime that they didn’t commit.

Latrice was not convinced with the story that was told to her by the police so she pushed hard using protests and the media to get her son’s accident investigated. KJ Harper was the DA put on the case. Her boss assigned her to the case because it was politically fitting, a black women defending a black boy. In the series, she is portrayed as an alcoholic. Detective “Fish” Rinaldi was assigned to the case to help. They quickly figured out that the cover up story didn’t make sense so together they had to uncover what really happened. As the story continued, it became less about the crime and cover up and more about getting justice. It compelled you to wonder, “Will Brenton get justice and what would justice look like for him.”

In the end, Brenton Butler, succumbed to his injuries and died. KJ and Fish figured out that Pete had something to do with the accident and he was tried in court for the death and cover up of Brenton Butler. He was sentenced to 364 days in days. The others involved was never convicted of anything. It’s sad that the court system only seen the color blue. All characters in the series were portrayed in a stereotypical manner. It started with Brenton Butler, who was depicted as a thug and drug deal, just because he was a young black teen. This judgement turned out not to be the case. Also, in the series, the three white cops were characterized as crooked. In this instance, it was true. Usually when you think of cops, especially white cops, they are stereotyped to be crooked. Peter, one of the main characters, was a good cop and wanted to do the right thing but was influenced by his peers that covering up the accident was the best thing to do. Also, people feel that white cops “get away with murder”, particularly when a situation involves someone black. This cliché was taken literally. Peter was sentenced to less than a year in jail and the others involved got off scot free.

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