Theories On True Detective’s Racism And Sexism

True Detective

I need to start this one off with some full disclosure. This may be triggering for some people, so proceed with caution, but my opinions on this matter need to be taken in context.

About 8 months ago, I diagnosed myself with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from a visceral reaction I had to the Breaking Bad finale. I watched the final episode like everyone else, expecting the writers to deliver swift justice to the sexist, sociopathic, but most importantly sexist villain that is Walter White–and like everyone else, I was thrown into an emotional tailspin when the episode didn’t sermonize the way I assumed it would because I had blogged about it. It made me question a lot of things. It made me wonder how its 2014 and television shows are not catering to my specific opinions and outlook on morality and artistic expression. It made me wonder why I bother watching television at all, when half the time, it’s not reaffirming the things I think and feel. Isn’t that what television and storytelling are for–to tell me that I’m right and that I have the good opinions that a good person should have?

Because of my PTSD, I’ve been extremely wary about hopping on board with any hyped up television show these days. Sure, I hear about how great True Detective is, but what if the characters are flawed? What if the show’s cast isn’t racially proportioned the same way as the United States as a whole? What if it can’t pass the Bechdel test and what if I like it only to find out later that it is in fact racist and sexist?

So with that being said, hopefully you can understand why I haven’t actually watched any of True Detective, but I have decided summarily that it is in fact both racist and sexist. We live in a rape culture, so everything is sexist by default. That’s why you don’t actually have to watch a TV show to make a pretty accurate judgment about the injustical nature of its story.

Take Dog With A Blog for example. Seems like it’s just a fun show on Nickelodeon about a dog that can use a computer. But is it though? Have we read the blog? Is the dog a men’s rights activist? What if he’s a conservative? What if he hates the president because he’s black? Let’s focus more on the blog and less on the dog.

These questions are left unanswered, but when you put the dog in the context of our culture, you can assume that the dog has racist and sexist intentions because he cannot help it. Even if the dog can type, that doesn’t mean the dog has the ability to think critically and agree with me as a progressive woman. The dog is undoubtedly both racist and sexist, and that’s the whole point of the show–to push racist and sexist ideas. But, you couldn’t have a show that was just called Racist Dog, because who would watch that? So they have to come up with a clever rhyming scheme to mask the underlying racism and sexism on the show. This is rape culture. This is the world that we live in.

But back to True Detective. Just look at the name of the show itself. True Detective. That implies that there is such thing as a false Detective. Hmm, I wonder how the writers would define a false detective. Let’s just take a look at the promotional material for the show to get an idea. If you examine the poster, all we see is two white men, with the words True Detective written above them. Not a single person of color, and not a single woman. Prima facie, the show and it’s imagery, send a clear message:

“Only White Men Are Detectives.”

So if this is what I am being told by just looking at the poster, why would I even want to watch it? Just to upset myself and have something to blog about? That seems like a good enough reason, but I don’t have an HBOgo password, so it’s not even an option.

Besides that, I don’t even need to watch the show to tell you how racist and sexist it is, because I can deduce that from other people’s Facebook posts.

So here’s what I do know about the show: it’s about two white men in the south, who are police officers. There are very few women on the show, and women that are on the show are not presented in a positive light. There is also debate over “the identity of the Yellow King,” and I’d like to offer you guys some theories on just what exactly I think that means.

1. The Yellow King Is A Racial Slur.

Like most people, as soon as I heard “yellow king” I cringed. Instantly the notion of a person being yellow conjures up images of the Japanese being put into internment camps. Instantly I saw the be-queued shuffling rail workers of yesteryear. Instantly I felt my white-guilt pussy fill with self-serving, thousand-word emotional responses that could only be menstruated onto Tumblr. Instantly I was PTSDed.

But, let’s think critically for a second. Is “yellow” an accurate, albeit damaging, slur for Asians? Yes, you say? Did you forget that south Asians, including Indians, are not yellow at all? That’s right. You’re actually racist for being offended on behalf of Asians, because not all Asians are yellow. This is just one of the clever ways the show tricks you into being racist by being blatantly racist itself.

2. The Yellow King Is Both Racist AND Classist.

So, if “yellow” isn’t a slur directed at Asians, and it’s only a trick that forces the audience to stereotype all Asians as yellow, what exactly is it a reference to? Well, this is why it’s important to take things in context. Yellow King, as a whole, is a semantic inversion of “High Yellow,” a racial and classist slur directed at blacks with very light skin tones. High yellow blacks, were at one time, considered mostly European, yet they were still second class citizens. As esteemed blacks, high yellow individuals posed the greatest threat to the inherent racism in classism itself, because it offered a transitional bracket in which African Americans could elevate themselves to near white status. They were a threat.

And where exactly did this threat occur? In the south, where the show takes place. So, it makes a lot of sense that a show set in the south would feature a serial killer that was solely an allusion to class lines being blurred by mixed race individuals. What is the Yellow King? The Yellow King is a message from the show’s writers: Don’t mix races–it threatens the status quo, and it threatens life itself.

3. The Yellow King Is Homophobic.

Obviously, like most people, I was thinking, “just why the hell isn’t there a yellow QUEEN?” Think it’s just a coincidence that the hidden antagonist of the show is a man? Not at all. We still live in a world where women aren’t expected to accomplish anything–even if it’s something negative like being a serial killer. But, again, that would be too simple for True Detective.

Yellow, is in fact, slang for cowardly. Most of the shows promotional material is tinted yellow, which again, is a clever trick to force you to interpret the words literally. “Yellow King,” at first glance, makes you think of a king that is yellow, but not a king that is cowardly. So how is a cowardly king sexist? Simple, it reaffirms gender roles. It’s telling you that there’s something inherently wrong with a king that is cowardly. Kings, meaning men, are supposed to be brave, and they are supposed to be leaders. A yellow king is just weak man, a coward, a homosexual.

So ultimately, there is a Yellow Queen, it’s just not a woman. The Yellow King itself is just a fancy term for faggot, and once again, we have the media portraying homosexuals as psychotic killers.

4. The Yellow King is Sexist.

Let’s take one last look at the promotional material. Again, I’ll point out the yellow hue. Is this really a way to redirect your internal imagery into literally associating the Yellow King with the color yellow? Or are we missing something here. Perhaps it is colored for aesthetic reasons, and perhaps it is meant to be interpreted literally. Well, I think that it is, I just think we’ve got the color wrong.

You see, that’s not yellow–it’s sepia.

The entire show takes place through flashbacks. The promotional material is all in sepia tone. Thematically speaking, the whole show is enveloped in nostalgia. It encourages you to remember the 90s, and it frames it in a nice vintage Instagram filter. It says, remember the good old days?

So, how exactly is this sexist? Well, we’re not coloring the King yellow. We’re placing a sepia tone filter on the image of a patriarch. The entire show is a ballad to a bygone era in which men ruled, and did as they pleased. The king here is a psychotic maniac, but he is also faceless. We do not know who he is. Everyone is accused of being the Yellow King, and statistically speaking, 99% of those accusations have to be false. The show creates a world where men are wrongly accused, by society as a whole, of trying to reclaim ownership of a world they are just trying to make sense of. The show is telling us that men are victims of a world where their power has been revoked, and as a result, they have no choice but to kill.

What the Yellow King is, above all, is an attack on feminism. It’s a swan song of the patriarchy–a bellowing cry that resonates throughout every element of the program.

Again, I have not watched a single episode of this show, but I think it’s pretty clear that I’m right, and in conclusion, I think it’s also important to note that Woody Harrelson’s name means penis, which is the weapon used in 99% of rapes. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


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