Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Realism is key

Tuesday’s lecture really made me think more about why The Wire is such a high quality, well respected television series. With a countless number of cop shows out there, why is The Wire considered by so many to be the best?

The Wire is the real deal. The show is totally realistic. There is no added glitz. The harsh lives of cops are not glamorized and the lives of dealers and junkies are not demonized. The typical line of good and bad has been cleverly blurred. Baltimore is not presented as a beautiful, lively city, but a poverty-ridden urban area. Like Edgar said in Tuesday’s class, advertisements for The Wire do not show McNulty smirking into the camera with wind blowing in his hair, like so many other crime dramas on television. The series’ realism is undoubtedly a huge contributor to its allure.

Much of the shows realness is possible only because it was made for HBO. If the series were broadcast on a network television station, I do not think the series could have been half as effective as it is. The brutal imagery and vulgar language is a major part of what makes the show work. Without HBO’s unedited style, The Wire might be little more than the typical, fairly decent, somewhat believable cop drama.

The Wire is unquestionably disturbing, and nothing less should be expected when the subject at hand is drug dealing in inner city Baltimore. The Wire is violent, just as the lives of so many people living in the city’s projects really are. It is not very often on television you see a sixteen year old kid get ruthlessly shot by his friends or a young mother shooting up while taking care of a baby. The Wire is not afraid to go where other TV shows do not and cannot.

In the first episode of the series a character explains that they are not fighting the war on drugs, because wars end. That line really struck me and the more I watched of the show, the more right that line seemed. Each episode does not present and resolve a problem in fifty minutes and it is not ever glaringly apparent which side, if any, will triumph, just as it often is in real life. Even by the last episode, with almost all of Avon’s crew in jail, there is not a sense of total peace. Neither the cops nor the dealers are done with their work. Most shows do not end so unresolved and for that, I admire the creators of The Wire. The show does not aim to mollify its viewers by supplying an artificial resolution or copout with a happy ending. Just as wonderfully illustrated in The Wire, drugs, poverty, violence, and policy brutality continue unchecked…and luckily so does the series! I can’t wait to watch the other seasons.

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