Oh Amy. Beautiful, naive Amy Santiago. Possibly television’s funniest geeky geek, with a heart of gold and a head of ambition.
On the one hand, Amy Santiago (played by Melissa Fumero) fits neatly into a trope which appears in almost every situational comedy show – the overly ambitious woman who takes everything a bit too seriously. In the past, they’ve been portrayed as shrill, as stuck up, as … boring, quite frankly. However, nowadays the world has moved on a bit and (finally) realised that women can care about their careers and also enjoy themselves too. Amy Santiago, as a motivated career gal, is in wonderful company. She’s comparable to Parks and Rec’s Leslie Knope (which is hardly surprising as Mike Schur is the brain behind both Parks and Brooklyn). They both share high ambitions, they adore their jobs and co-workers and are both unique in their own special (very special) way.
One of the most wonderful things about Amy Santiago, though, is just how much her character changes and grows throughout the series – whilst also managing to stay completely true to herself and her goals. So let’s talk about why Amy is the greatest, and why we would all secretly love to be Jake Peralta (and not just so we could behave like five year olds and get away with it).
If Brooklyn 99 was a lesser show (or perhaps was written in the 1990s), Jake Peralta would be the audience stand in. We would identify ourselves with him – the cheeky, yet charming ‘bad’ boy who always manages to save the day. Instead of focusing solely on Jake’s journey and character, B99 allows for a fuller and richer ensemble cast, meaning that other characters are also not reduced to their stereotypes. Amy Santiago would traditionally be Jake’s ‘nemesis’ – solely due to her competitive nature and her desire to succeed in her job. Whilst Jake and Amy tease each other often, it comes from a place of love and support. In this way, we also identify with Amy, and can understand her motivations and individual desires too. Unlike other sitcoms which always ultimately end up objectifying a (usually lone) female character through the eyes of the male protagonist (Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory… etc etc) Brooklyn 99 avoids this completely. Even when Jake and Amy begin dating, she is never portrayed as a sex object or as someone for Jake to attain (it totally helps that Jake is a feminist). Regardless of whether they date, are co-workers or friends, they are both still individuals.
So what makes Amy’s character so great to watch? For a start, her sheer determination. Whatever the task is, Amy Santiago will throw herself into it with 110%. Even jobs that she might not be that suited for (the time she went undercover in prison as a pregnant criminal), Amy wants to prove that she can handle it. And yes, she partly wants to prove herself to Holt, but it often turns out that Amy needs to prove it to herself more. Though confident in her abilities behind a desk, Amy routinely pushes herself to do things that are out of her comfort zone.
We also see this amazing, and hilarious progression between Amy, Gina and Rosa throughout the series. Though the three of them are certainly acquaintances, both Gina and Rosa are not the easiest people to befriend. In comparison to Amy’s need to please everyone around her, Rosa’s main goal is to be as un-emotionally unavailable with the people around her as possible. Likewise, Gina (who is one the greatest characters to ever grace our screens, but we will leave this for another post) can be a bit stand-offish, especially to Amy. Rosa makes an important point in season 1 however, about how the women of the precinct need to have each others backs in such a heavily male dominated environment. And whilst the three of them may not always see eye to eye (Amy’s constant stream of positivity regularly rubs Rosa up the wrong way), there are several moments of wonderful friendship between them.
One of these comes in Season 3, when Amy approaches Gina to give her some advice with an idea she has had for a new flashlight mount. It shows how far Gina and Amy have come in their friendship and that Amy understands the importance of asking for help when she needs it. With their combined talents (Amy’s product and Gina’s showmanship), they produce an incredible pitch. It’s Amy’s ability to let go of always having to be right and to allow someone else to give her help when she needed it, that shows how much she has grown. The purchasing department of the NYPD decide not to buy the product, but it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the wonderful collaboration of two very different, very wonderful people. It’s not dissimilar to the time (in ‘Beach House’) where Gina decides to get Amy very, very drunk just to witness the 5 Stages of Drunk Amy Santiago (or 5 Drink Amy). Though partly just for the comedy, Gina also does this to let Amy have some fun and let her hair down – something that she perhaps needs to do a little more often.
Of course, we can’t end this post without acknowledging Amy’s ethnicity and the fact that she completely bucks the stereotypical portrayal of Latin American women on TV. Amy is hardworking, brave, introverted and comically fearful of overt displays of sexuality – something which goes against all of the harmful tropes normally attributed to Latina characters. It’s important to note, because it proves that television can focus on a character’s individual desires and personality without always boiling them down to a stereotype. And if Brooklyn 99 can do this (and it does it so well with ALL of it’s characters) then there’s no excuse for other show-runners out there.
We love you Amy. Even if you can’t handle hot sauce.