Copaganda — shows and other media that promote celebratory portrayals of police officers for the benefit of law enforcement groups — has been an extremely hot topic as of late in the wake of the George Floyd protests that occurred last year. With Brooklyn 99 ending so recently, it might come as a surprise that the discussion on police representation in television is currently turned a bit more towards anime than it is mainstream shows, but that seems to be the case.
On the website Anime Feminist, Lucas DeRuyter wrote an entire essay on copaganda in anime that had a large section focusing on My Hero Academia. In the essay, DeRuyter talks a bit about how the heroes in MHA are essentially police, even with a full police force in the show.
“In this series, heroes are basically cops with fewer regulations and greater celebrity status. In its early chapters, MHA boldly questions the systems in its society and suggests that there might be better solutions to its problems than this hyper-capitalistic version of policing.”
DeRuyter also discussed how the young heroes themselves are affected by the propaganda fed to them by organizations in the MHA world.
“MHA focuses on young people entering into this policing system who fully believe in it and think that they can solve its problems by being more virtuous than other people. Their sense of right and wrong comes directly from the propaganda generated in this world, so essentially My Hero Academia’s leads believe they can solve any problem by being better cops than anyone else; even when many of those problems stem from that system.”
DeRuyter also pointed out how the redemption of Endeavor might be extremely problematic given how 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence and Endeavor was horribly abusive to his family. By giving him an arc to make fans like him more, they claim the anime inadvertently supports a negative narrative.
“My Hero Academia’s answer to the social and political questions it raises seems to be that “good” cops who believe in the institution that empowers them can fix any injustice. This overtly plays into the propaganda that bad cops are a rarity and that changing regulations to crack down on them will hurt the majority of supposedly virtuous cops. In the time the series saves by no longer casting a critical eye on policing systems, it finds the time to redeem a hero that physically and emotionally abused his spouse and children”
Maybe Shigaraki has a point back in episode Episode 13 of season one when he says, “You think you’re the symbol of peace? You’re just another government-sponsored instrument of violence.” to All Might before they fight. Even Twice from the show talks about how heroes failed him as a person with mental health issues just many claim police do in the real world.
“And there’s no place in the world where crazy people can belong. Heroes only care about saving good citizens. But the League accepted me for who I am, problems and all. And I’d like to think I’m okay with who I am too.”Twice – Season 3 Episode 24
Whether you agree with the conclusions DeRuyter comes to or not, the essay is a fascinating read and brings up interesting points about the world of My Hero Academia many fans may never have thought of (alongside a few other famous properties). The full essay is available to read here.