From Cops to PAW Patrol: Depictions of Police in Media Come Under Fire

25 June, 2020

Following the May 25th killing of George Floyd, demand for crime reality shows fell substantially. This pattern was seen across genres so is not necessarily specific to the crime reality genre. However, the drop in demand for crime reality (-25.8%) outpaced the drop in total demand for all shows (-17.8%) from May 15 to June 4. This genre also saw a unique surge in demand in the second week of June. This seems to be driven by a reaction against the cancellations of Cops and Live P.D. , two shows which received increased scrutiny in the wake of protests against police violence.


On June 8 it was announced that Cops would not be returning for its 33rd season. As can be seen below, this led to a spike in demand for the show as it became a focal point for discussions around portrayals of police in media.


On June 10, A&E announced that production of Live P.D. would cease immediately. It was reported that this decision was partially driven by the cancellation of Cops a few days previously. Similar to Cops, Live P.D. saw a large jump in demand following the announcement as people reacted with both praise and criticism for the decision. Critics noted that the series took a more documentary approach compared to the entertainment focus of Cops.


As the conversation around these shows progressed, a perhaps unsuspecting PAW Patrol was pulled into the fray. An initial spike in demand for the show around June 1 was driven by increased social media activity as people called out the show's police dog Chase. On June 10, a New York Times article titled “The Protests Come for PAW Patrol” highlighted this mounting (albeit often tongue in cheek) backlash against the show. This was picked up by critics of the cancellation of these shows with the hashtag #CancelCultureTargetsCartoons, sparking a backlash against the backlash. Demand for the children’s show was up 112% from May 1 as it was dragged into the middle of the culture wars.


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