Cops & Film

Evolution of the Cop Character & Cop Narratives

The cop character has evolved from the film noir detective during the glory days of Hollywood. We’ll  be taking a glimpse of three film characters, Serpico, Dirty Harry & Robocop. Cops at one were taking things into their own hands and going rogue. It’s now transitioned into something more systematic and contemplated.

Dirty Harry encapsulates the narrative of public opinion & it’s weight-carrying heavily. The evolution of the cop clearly shows that machismo is predominantly the standard through these film characters. However, except in Serpicos case, machismo wasn’t as evident, it was more morality. Robocop is the film out of the three where every single emotion was in one character. Robocops build was the 24/7 cop that neither Serpico nor Dirty Harry could provide, much less the continuous skews of emotion.

The looks of each main character were similar but different. Dirty Harry had the stern look and the take no prisoners appearance, while Serpico was built as the everyday man. The viewer automatically knew throughout the course of the film we would go on this journey. Appearance was key in Serpico’s presentation whether it was his facial hair or certain clothes.

Robocop was an imitation of Superman, built as steel and could take a bullet, he had a voice that was bold and knew how to command. But, we were rooting for Robocop to do the right thing but went rogue in a way where he channeled his inner Harry and was out for vengeance. The times definitely set these characters up properly where most people know how it was to feel like Serpico, while we all wanted to have the exterior of Harry and Robocop.

The genre evolved from the public not having a heroin cop, to garnering the hero through these movies the more this genre was created. Communities were able to establish a sense of trust with our own police, according to Criminologist Nicole Rafter. Rafter points that out, she says, “re-establishing’s in the audience for an hour or two that law and order are of optimum importance to society and that it will always be there to protect civilians.”

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