As unbelievable as [White Dude Super Detective (WDSD)] characters are, they would become infinitely more so if their race or gender were changed. In The Mentalist, WDSD Patrick Jane once grifted clients as a fake psychic, but now works as a hard-to-control resource for the California Bureau of Investigations. What if the Jane character were a Latino ex-grifter? Would his arrogance and propensity for sneaking into suspect’s homes and accusing wealthy businessmen of impropriety read as quirky and charming? Would anyone believe that a police force would allow such behavior? Could the Scotland Yard of fantasy be down with a coke-addicted black Sherlock—no matter how clever?
The San Francisco police department abides Adrian Monk’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, as the FBI allows Perception’s Dr. Daniel Pierce to assist on cases, despite his unmedicated schizophrenia and paranoia, which results in hallucinations. Could a black woman be cast in those roles to the same effect? I submit, that even in the fictional worlds of literature and television, race and gender matter. Belief can only be suspended so far. And this archetype is reliant on power that comes with white maleness in American society.