Popular culture both reflects and advances the crumbling of our culture at-large. Most pop culture artifacts either push the liberal agenda or are mindless enough to stupify audiences even further were that, at this point, possible. For this reason, television programs that show even a modicum of respect for traditional values and modes of living stand out.
Blue Bloods is one of those shows. My wife and I began watching some episodes on Netflix a couple of months ago on the recommendation of a family member. We are now into season four, far enough in to see that the program has its virtues, and that those have remained constant at least across the first hundred episodes or so.
The show revolves around the Reagan family and their multi-generational service to the New York City Police Department. The family patriarch, Henry, is a retired New York City Police Commissioner. His son Frank is the current commissioner. Both of Frank’s sons are NYPD officers. Danny is a detective. Jamie is a patrolman. Their sister is an assistant prosecutor.
The drama in every episode arises from the intersection police work and family life. Basically, Blue Bloods is The Waltons if John-boy and his kin fought crime. The show’s old-fashioned sensibility is captured by one of its recurring motifs. Every episode features at least one scene in which the the Reagans gather at the table. These meals can be contentious as the family routinely hashes out all sorts of legal and philosophical issues. These scenes alone, as meager as those discussions are, make this program one of the intellectual heavies on major network television.
The narratives are unusual because of their masculine feel. Unlike most major television productions Blue Bloods does not cater to an exclusively female audience. The stories are reminiscent of the traditional Western in which the good guy chases down and captures the bad guy. Just as in the classic cowboy story, the good guys can only accomplish this mission by cultivating their personal virtues of hard-work, sacrifice and bravery. In both the Old West and in the New York of Blue Bloods, the good guys succeed because they are good.
In an age when men on television are typically presented as buffoons, cretins or thugs, the Reagan men are loyal, competent and pro-active. They don’t gush. They don’t cringe. They don’t beg women for affirmation. Above all, they don’t ignore evil by disappearing into the private pleasures of video games, spectator sports and porn.
These qualities make all the Reagan men that now rarest of television creatures: good role models for young men, icons of mature masculinity. Unfortunately, fatherless boys are far more likely to spend their time watching trash that reinforces personal qualities that will cripple their effectiveness. So long as the Reagans are on the air, they could strengthen their souls simply by changing the channel.
Most won’t. Blue Bloods is not a show marketed to boys, certainly not to the kind of boys our culture is making. Rather, they are encouraged to put their viewing time into watching minor celebrities prank bystanders on YouTube. That boys who’ve been deserted, left alone to find their way, aching for the love of a Reagan man have likely never heard of the show is an indictment against our cultural establishment.
People who do watch Blue Bloods are generally those old enough to remember vestiges of the culture that once produced men like the Reagans. Part of the show’s appeal is that, though it is set in the current year, its characters are from another era. It is stealth-nostalgia, a sneaky importing of values more prevalent in times now long-gone.
Still, the show is not perfect. Even in the the world of Blue Bloods, the feminist fantasy endures. The producers’ insistence on assigning both Jamie and Danny female partners is annoying. We are routinely treated to the sight of a diminutive female in blue tackling and taking down a perp twice her size. On the whole however, the show’s emphasis on traditional, mature masculinity and the values of family and responsibility save it from becoming just another bit of modern propaganda.
The streaming video revolution has brought its measure of destruction and distraction. When offered easy access to anything we want to watch whenever we want to watch it, most will choose poorly. Junk flourishes.
Blue Bloods, though not the best television ever produced, is far from junk. It is an example of what could be done in our entertainment industry were there will to do it. It is also evidence that among the mire of our popular culture some gems lay hidden, it’s just that to find them, one has to be a bit of a detective.