Written by: Mich Medvedoff
Before we wore clothes, before we drank milk, before we shaved… we told stories. And the same stories continue to circulate and confront us.
Like a cinematic Tootsie Roll pop, there are sometimes a hidden story inside the very movie you are watching.
Critics said the flick was D.O.A. Yet “Police Academy” hauled in major bucks at the B.O. so you know… sequels ensued. Six sequels to be precise.
We’re only going to examine the first. You’re welcome.
WHAT HAPPENS: Ever wanted to be a cop? It’s your lucky day. PA is an inspiring tale of how anyone, regardless of: height, weight, sex, race, education, or strength has a shot “to protect and to serve.” The jokey lead, Mahoney, opts-in to avoid a jail sentence. Of course, the higher ups see right through him. They make life miserable so he’ll quit the act.
What is the hidden story behind “Police Academy”?
Put your arms above your head: “Police Academy” is “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.
SIMILARITIES: Roll call! Lead PERPs Mahoney and McMurphy are pranksters with Irish-sounding names. Both Mahoney and McMurphy use the institution to avoid jail. Ball-breaker babes Sgt. Callahan is onto Mahoney, and Nurse Ratched knows McMurphy is faux insane. Both Mahoney and McMurphy participate in Grand Theft Auto (their hearts are in the right place). And who can forget the gentle giants – PA’s Hightower and his feat of strength upturning the police car, or Chief Bromdem’s sink remodel. Prostitutes also make an appearance. The only difference? Mahoney gets head at graduation and McMurphy loses his.
UNIVERSALITY: Stereotyping goes a long way whenever you need to cut through an overly complex environment. From “Office Space” to “Full Metal Jacket,” stereotypes uphold the status quo. It’s what keeps the big dogs on top. If the underdogs decide to buy into the institution, they’re forced to leave their personalities at the doggie door.
MESSAGE: Stories are social mirrors. Their purpose is to broadcast messages we can’t admit to ourselves. So why does this narrative recur in our stories?
Stereotypes prevent social change. Whether it’s a screwball comedy like “Police Academy“, or a cast of screwballs in the psych ward; institutions have no room for personalities. What is the message? In these films, and often in life – it’s the institution that is the problem, not the individuals trapped inside it. If you try to express your individuality and live a little, there will be a hairdo-ed nurse or busty Sargent standing by, ready to enforce the rules.