Earlier today it hit me: this show is ridiculously good at being authentic. Usually, when I watch a show/movie and shudder at unsavory things, it's because the show isn't authentic, and thus, I feel like what's going on is part of a message about how reality "should" be--what is unrealistic literature if not either a utopia or a dystopia? And so, of course, things I disagree with irritate me. But the Wire is very real. If it's sending a message, it's not by an example of ideal or an example of scary extreme negative. Because of all of this, I can accept the slurs and the misogyny. None of it is condoned; nothing and no one are condoned.
The authenticity here is in the details, at least partially. One bit I remember in particular is when someone opens their car door and the car starts making a faint beeping noise. I've never seen that in a film or show! I don't know whether it's bits like that or overall accuracy of people that makes the show so believable, but whatever it is, it's literally changed how I watch it.