Sunday, March 2, 2014

When The Wire, a television series produced by HBO, is brought up in a conversation you witness either one of two reactions. The first involving something along the lines of it being “hands down one of the best television programs ever produced in history”, and the second concerning something like “Iv never heard of it heard it before”. Maybe the show’s lack of widespread popularity and awareness is due to the unjust neglect it received from award institutions such as the Emmys. Or perhaps the series never obtained the recognition it rightfully warranted because it was constantly overshadowed by the enormously successful series The Sopranos, a HBO program that took the ratings by storm.

But regardless of speculation, it has always struck me as unsettling that the majority of people I have come across remain completely ignorant of The Wire’s existence. Why does this bother me so much? Well, simply put, I firmly believe that this series can single handedly inform and educate the public about the realities of society, politics, class, culture, sex, gender, and everything in-between far better than any other outlet could, including: the news, school, collegiate courses, etc.

For the sake of this blog I will only be concentrating on the cultural representations this series illustrates. In essence, I argue that HBO’s The Wire intricate portrayal on the inner-workings of both sides of the law provides the viewer with a realistic and heightened sense of the way things really work in society. More particularly, I contend that The Wire’s transparent lens of the law enables the spectator to recognize the irony that the series subtly and consistently enforces throughout every season. This being the fact that there is no real difference between the “right” side and the “wrong” side of the law, but rather that they both are one in the same, each operating under “the chain of command” (Mcnulty) and each eating their equal share of “shit” (Burrell)

In Sum, HBO’s The Wire is a criminal drama based on inner city Baltimore that aired from 2002-2008. The series focuses on many characters hailing from various walks of life. These include the homeless, criminals, police, children, politicians, drug-addicts, murderers, and many more. In essence, the viewer gets to witness inner-city society through the lens of these varied people. Seeing the world as a particular character sees it is beneficial on many levels, but most importantly because one quickly realizes that we are all bound and motivated by the same principles, regardless of race, status, and wealth.

The Wire illustrates this notion by consistently paralleling, and in some respects mirroring, the “good” and the “bad” realms of society. Basically, it doesn’t matter whether you are the mayor, a police captain, a rookie, a drug-lord, a drug-dealer, or a drug-runner, somewhere along the line you will be blamed for something that was not your fault and have to take responsibility for it. Burrell puts it perfectly in season 5 episode 4 when he is talking to Rawls about taking over the police commissioner job, Burrell asserts” You think the mayor teaches schools how to teach kids? Or the health department how to do its job? Or sanitation how to pickup trash? But get elected and suddenly they know police work. You might think it will be different when you sit here, but it wont, you will eat their shit . . .” Here, Burrell is acknowledging the fact that the job revolves around accepting responsibility for things that are not in your control

In essence, this school of thought can be taken into a broader context, for the notion applies to all characters of the wire, regardless of which side of the law they are on. For example, in the episode “All Due Respect”, Body, a mid-level player in the Barksdale organization, gets disciplined by Stringer Bell, 2nd in command of the organization for not being able to find/communicate with rival drug dealer Marlo Stanfield. Body had no control in not finding Marlo, for he had done everything he could; yet he still “ate shit” because, well, that is just how the system works. It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you are on, “the chain of command”(Mcnulty) always reigns supreme.

Even the highest-ranking positions in society abide by these realities of life. For example, in episode 7 of season 4 “Unto Others”, Tommy Carcetti, soon to be Mayor of Baltimore, seeks advice from a former mayor. The former mayor tells him a story entailing of eating a never-ending bowl of shit provided by the various spheres and groups of society. The former Mayor finishes by letting Tommy know he is more than content with not being Mayor anymore.

This example proves how status or rank does little in terms of helping one escape the realities of life. The fact of the matter remains that every person in society “eats shit” in one-way or another. It is unavoidable. Thus, in essence, proving further how we are all much more similar than we realize.

In sum, The Wire subtly portrays a vicious cycle that concerns continuously passing down blame and responsibility to people that are below you in your particular social structure, regardless of which side of the law you are on. In essence, this is how “the Wire” illustrates how modern society is run, and unfortunately they are spot on. When it comes down to it, it is easier to blame someone else than accepting fault. These realities are universal, and are illustrated perfectly in the series.
Therefore I remain a firm believer that viewing HBO’s The Wire not only grants one an enhanced insight on the way things really work in society, but also gives the spectator the means to understand that we as a people are not as different as we like to believe.

The Wire."Transitions". (Jan 27, 2008)
The Wire. "All Due Respect".(September 26, 2004)
The Wire."Unto Others".(October 29, 2006)

1 comment:

  1. After reading your blog I really want to start watching The Wire! I liked how you also put clips on your blog so we could see what a typical episode looked like. I've never seen it, YET, but it's because I don't have HBO. I also was intrigued how you used your blog to talk about the cultural representation of this show - very cool. Good work.


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