Brooklyn nine-nine is a comedy TV show about a police precinct in Brooklyn. It follows the life of a few of the workers there who are close friends, including Rosa Diaz. Rosa is portrayed as quite an aggressive, reserved, caring and a generally badass person. In Episode 5 of Season 5, she comes out as bisexual to her friends and coworkers. In the next episode to her parents. But why is her coming out so important? Well, not only does it fit well with the context of the show and the nature of the characters but it relates to a wider theme of how coming out stories are being portrayed in the media.
First of all, Rosa’s coming out is only prompted when a coworker/friend Charles Boyle discovers she is dating a woman. During the beginning of the episode, he knows she is dating someone and forces Rosa to tell. This fits in his character as he is quite nosy, playful and wants to be involved. He hears her on the phone when a woman’s voice calls her “babe”. She tries to deny it but then confesses to being bi. Charles takes a moment to take it in but then clearly expresses his acceptance. But by then Rosa interrupts him and walks away. This may seem cruel and unjust to him since he is accepting but it fits in with her character. She would not have opened up or made herself emotionally vulnerable if he hadn’t overheard. It shows not only other people’s reaction to her being bi but her feelings on being forced in a way to out herself.
In the next episode, she then comes out to the rest of her coworkers. It is during a morning meeting and also the first scene after the intro of the episode. The scene lasts less than 3 minutes and her coming out itself takes up less than a minute and a half. How does this make her coming out story important? Since it is so short, it presents a more realistic coming out story that isn’t treated as a dramatic turning point for the character, just another aspect of hers that has come to light. Coming out stories such as Alec’s in Shadowhunters can be used as an example to demonstrate how coming out scenes as usually portrayed as over-dramatic in. He comes out by interrupting his wedding and kissing another character called Magnus. This kind of coming out, although sweet, in most cases, is not realistic. It also presents coming out as being interruptive and inconvenient. His future wife-to-be is also shown to be supportive of him during this interruption, smiling and nodding at him: making it more unrealistic and not giving it the same amount of emotional vulnerability or carefulness as Rosa’s.
Rosa’s coming out being so short expresses how for most people, coming out doesn’t have to be a big deal. Her friends are shown as respectful, not asking invasive or inappropriate questions but ones that seem more friendly and colloquial such as “When did you know?”. The scene also fits in with the show, as it cuts to a previous moment where Charles Boyle getting flustered when telling Rosa “bye”, as he is not known to be able to keep secrets and therefore was portrayed as very paranoid. He says he “stopped saying bye” altogether which keeps the scene lighthearted and doesn’t interrupt the flow or nature of the show. But Brooklyn nine-nine still doesn’t show coming out to be an easy experience, as it isn’t for most people. When Rosa tries to come out to her parents they reject her for it at first. Not only does it present a vast variety of reactions, but it makes it more realistic in showing her coming out to different people at different times.
This show more directly addresses the message of coming out not having to be a big deal when Rosa talks to Jake Peralta, another coworker. She tells him she hasn’t told her parents yet and he responds with “Really? I mean you don’t have too”. It presents a realistic, expected response as well as addressing how the whole idea of coming out is only in place because being straight is treated as ‘the norm’. It reminds me of Cyrus’s coming out scene in the show Andy Mack to Jonah, his crush. It is said colloquially but still with enough intensity to show how nervous he is, which is expected when a child/young teen comes out to someone so important to them Jonah responds with “Yeah? Okay, cool”. I think Disney did a good job with this coming out scene, especially to have it included in a kid’s show to bring awareness and treat is as a normal topic.
Anyway, after Rosa comes out, the episode continues as normal. It goes back to the other main plot of the story in the next scene, not erasing her coming out but expressing how it shouldn’t have to be a big deal. It also doesn’t change anyone’s opinion of Rosa in the office as Jake reassures her in a comedic manner they’re all still “terrified” of her.
Not only is it a funny, sweet and heart moving scene but it fills a gap in the media of having a realistic coming out scene. It gives it the right amount of importance while still keeping Rosa’s main character trait of a reserved, cool and badass character with a dark sense of humour, not letting her coming out or sexuality define her, just be a part of her.