Police Academy is “problematic” because in the 80s, people weren’t as culturally woke as we are today. One almost gets the feeling that it was meant to be crude and offensive.
We start with the destruction of a photomat. For you millennials who don’t know what a photomat is, it’s a place we used to have to go to pick up our selfies. In the 80s, cameras weren’t just an app, they were an actual device, and they used “film.” After exposing the “film” to light, it would capture images. We would take this “film” to the photomat, and they would turn it into selfies. In a way, this scene foreshadows the destruction of old institutions as society progresses. Like most of our detritus, the remains of the photomat are dumped into the ocean, signaling our continuing scorn for the environment.
The archetypes are simplistic and backwards, but Police Academy still manages to use them to great effect. The “busty blonde” sleeps with the “Mexican womanizer,” illustrating how CIS heteronormative females use their entitlement to oppress Mexicans. He has to dress up as a woman to sneak into her dorm, which is either empowering or brutally demeaning (it’s either one or the other). Then she beats up the “fat white guy” in a sexual fashion and all of the other men volunteer to be beaten and humiliated in the same fashion because tricking a woman into beating you in a sexual fashion is a lot of hard work and if you find one who enjoys it, you take advantage. Especially if her finishing move is cramming her vagina in your face.
To Police Academy’s credit, the cast is diverse, but having a giant black guy who’s really strong and another black guy who can make strange, musical noises is racist. Black people can do more than just lift up Volkswagens or chirp like penguins. Some black people can do both.
The Aryan/Jewish Superman Steve Guttenberg ends up with the Aryan Jew Kim Cattrall, and she doesn’t even have the autonomy to cram her vagina in his face. It wasn’t until years later, in Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country, that she got to cram her vagina into anyone’s face, and she had to disguise herself as a Japanese woman in order to do it, which is either whitewashing or cultural appropriation or both.
For a man who probably has relatives who died in a Nazi oven, Steve Guttenberg is all too willing to play the role of the Aryan oppressor. Even worse, he’s a CIS heteronormative male who is constantly sexually harassing Kim Cattrall. But the movie does have a strange moment of ironic comeuppance when he sticks his vagina in her face. Take that, you Aryan/Jewish Superwoman whore.
Surprisingly, the gays are also represented in this movie, but unsurprisingly, they are portrayed in an extremely poor light. According to Police Academy, all gay men are into leather and like to hang out in biker bars dancing. When white cadets unknowingly wander into one of these gay bars, they (the cadets) become extremely uncomfortable. Imagine the gall of ignorant young CIS heteronormative white men feeling uncomfortable just because they unwittingly walked into a bar full of leather clad gays. Nowadays, we’re woke enough to at least pretend to be cool with it, even if the gays are leering at you and circling in. It’s fine for gay men to do this to straight men, but not for straight men to do this to women.
Some condemn Police Academy as a tired relic of an embarrassing time, but I choose to look at it as a cheerful reminder of how far we’ve come as a patriarchy.