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Slavoj Žižek on The Wire
March 2, 2012 11:44 AM   Subscribe

The Wire or the clash of civilisations in one country is lecture by philosopher Slavoj Žižek on the television show The Wire.
posted by Kattullus (89 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
I could not find a transcript anywhere.
posted by Kattullus at 11:46 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


/saving this for when I finish Season 1.

That's right, people who have recommended the fucking thing at me every fucking day for what seems like forever, I am finally watching it.

S1 EP6, since you ask. It's quite good so far.

posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on March 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


Holy crap, an hour and a half? Can you at least provide a three sentence summary?
posted by desjardins at 11:48 AM on March 2, 2012


Holy crap, an hour and a half? Can you at least provide a three sentence summary?

1. I'm Slavoj Žižek.
2. Slavoj fucking Žižek.
3. The Slavoj Žižek.
posted by yoink at 11:53 AM on March 2, 2012 [21 favorites]


1. Fuck
2. What the fuck did I do?
3. All in the game yo, all in the game.

(And I have literally turned on my pc to refill my MP3 player... those Greek gods are smiling on me)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:57 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anybody got a transcript?
posted by Afroblanco at 12:02 PM on March 2, 2012


Slate has a brief write-up.
posted by codacorolla at 12:17 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


In other The Wire related news, the question of Best Character has been resolved* by executive decree.

* In US jurisdictions only, and subject to being overruled by the Supreme Court. Roberts strikes me as a Brother Mouzone kind of guy.
posted by zamboni at 12:17 PM on March 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I like how he takes a long break to play the 'fuck' scene.
His anecdote if you aren't listening: he dubbed that scene with what the fucks are representing (like "here's a clue" "how did we miss this?"), played it to a naive audience and it worked. Therefore that scene is the height of poetry.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:18 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


In honor of Davy Jones, I await his critique of The Monkees.

PLEASE!
posted by symbioid at 12:25 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Favorite Cop : Lester Freamon. Clearly the smartest guy in the room.
Favorite Criminal : Stringer Bell. Were he born in different circumstances, would have become a successful American entrepreneur. Reminds me of some people I used to know.

You?
posted by Afroblanco at 12:33 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had to miss this for a friend's thirtieth. Not my friend, exactly, more like a colleague. Of my wife. Never mind that I'm on the Contemporary Literature and Culture MA at Birkbeck, I was in Sway drinking cheap cocktails and doing the running man to the Jackson Five. But it's important to spend quality time with the other half. And I'm not remotely angry.
posted by tigrefacile at 12:33 PM on March 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


Rhonda Pearlman's arc is one of my favorites, just because how subtly and slowly she makes exceptions and excuses until she's become completely comprised and just becomes another identical hack in the system.
posted by The Whelk at 12:40 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I like the part where he discusses the first Left Behind book. He should speak more on that, but then I'd probably have to actually read the book.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:48 PM on March 2, 2012


The point of this comment is to say to Artw - don't do it! I just read the Slate article, and you shouldn't even read that until after season 5. I have not yet listened to TFL, but I can't imagine it is spoiler free. In fact, you probably shouldn't even read this thread. :)

But since Afroblanco asked: Prezbo and Bodie. Such great characters, and great stories for both.
posted by pinespree at 12:48 PM on March 2, 2012


I'm still listening to the podcast, so I'll comment on it later, but:

Cop: McNaulty. Not as a person, but as an embodiment of the sneering nihilism of the drug war.

Robber: D'Angelo.
posted by codacorolla at 12:55 PM on March 2, 2012


I like how he takes a long break to play the 'fuck' scene.

This scene is where I went from thinking "I don't think I really like this show despite everyone telling me it's great" to "Oh. Wow. I think I'm getting this show all of the sudden."
posted by notmydesk at 1:11 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cop: Bunk. He found a way to outdo even Lester in the "Find a way to be happy even though you know everything is completely and utterly fucked" game. (Of which it is all in. What.)

Criminal: Prop Joe. The slow roll introduction of his character is so, so great.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:11 PM on March 2, 2012


Afroblanco: I'm actually in agreement with you on both cop and criminal, though I love Bunk and Snoop as well, of course.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:15 PM on March 2, 2012


Omar, and Omar.
posted by mek at 1:20 PM on March 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


My favorite cop was the Bunk, because I am a connoisseur of don't-give-a-fuck-ism and he is one of its finest practitioners*. My favorite example is this interchange, when they're busting that brothel ring in season two:
Bunk knocks on the door.

MADAM: Who is it?
BUNK: Baltimore police.
MADAM: What do you want?
BUNK: To lock yo' ass up.
Of the criminals, Stringer, easily. The scene where McNulty gets a look at his apartment explains why better than I can.

* This is of course an oversimplification, and the fact that Bunk seems to go to a decent bit of trouble to avoid revealing anything like a real emotional response is another part of what interests me about him, especially when he fails to maintain that image (as with his rebuke of Omar -- what a stunning scene that is).
posted by invitapriore at 1:21 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Cop: Carver. I like his arc. It's not nearly as front-and-center as the other members of Daniels' original team, but its a really subtle and interesting one.

Robber: Bodie. Him and Stringer - the way they both never really understood, until the very end, precisely how hollow the promise of the Game was. The way they both implicitly took for granted their own fucked-up version of the American Dream - that they could make it in a world structured to only permit temporary, Pyrrhic successes.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:22 PM on March 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


Cop: McNulty/Freamon tie.
Criminal: Bodie. Cried a little over Bodie.
Renegade: Omar. Dude deserves his own category.

But really, every character on that show is awesome. It is my favorite show ever. EVAR.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 1:25 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holy crap, an hour and a half? Can you at least provide a three sentence summary?

Blah blah blah blah random pop culture reference blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah ideology blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah capitalism blah blah blah.
posted by googly at 1:30 PM on March 2, 2012


Holy crap, an hour and a half? Can you at least provide a three sentence summary?

1. Make sure you've read Marx. (Optional: Gramsci, to understand why this lecture is important).
2. OH SHIT THAT LITTLE KID SHOT OMAR WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!!
3. The Wires shows us how class in a capitalist system is a tragedy.

Favorite Cop: The bartender at the Irish pub. The Wire is really a story about him.
Favorite Criminal: The Business Card Killer. In the anime reboot of The Wire he's actually a real serial killer and not faked by McNulty.
posted by fuq at 1:33 PM on March 2, 2012


Michael Lee's story is so great. He cared so much about his little brother, Bug.
I cried at Bubbles' redemption. His AA sponsor was such a great character too.
Can't wait to listen to this post when I have more time.
posted by hot_monster at 1:39 PM on March 2, 2012


....Fuck...(lights cigarette).....Fuck....(noticing the drama of existence).....Fuck...(where's the phone)....
posted by elpapacito at 1:41 PM on March 2, 2012


I cried at Bubbles' redemption. His AA sponsor was such a great character too.

The latter played by the inimitable Steve Earle.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:45 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Favorite Criminal: The Business Card Killer. In the anime reboot of The Wire he's actually a real serial killer and not faked by McNulty.

In the anime reboot of The Wire my favorite character is Chief Aramaki.
posted by grobstein at 1:56 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cop: Lester. Criminal: Clay Davis.
posted by Gary at 1:57 PM on March 2, 2012


I'm not sure that I want to admit this.... But I've been listening to 45 minutes of this, and I've gotten absolutely nothing from it. It strikes me as totally unstructured, disconnected rambling.


I clearly have not studied philosophy, nor have I much desire to.
posted by graphnerd at 2:00 PM on March 2, 2012


Seasons 3 and 4 are my favorites of this (though the whole series is obviously damn-near flawless.) It's easy enough to see why with Season 4 - the kids are so affecting and viscerally real, plus you get the wonderful opening scene (with Snoop buying the nail gun) capping toward the end with Lester noting the differences in nails and putting together what was going on, and the slow tragedy of Randy, and everything else... but Season 3 is a little tougher to pin down.

I mean, in a way it's really disjointed, with everybody off doing their own things. Carcetti, B&B Enterprises, Hamsterdam. And it just hit me: Season 3 is the season of hope. All of the main storylines have people taking a shitty situation and trying to play it to make things actually better, and in the end all of these schemes are destroyed for not fitting the status quo. Carcetti will be corrupted. B&B will collapse in on itself. Hamsterdam will be shut down for not fitting the model.

Season 3 is really the pinnacle of the series showing how much the entrenched institutions care more about maintaining themselves than adapting for the better, which is kind of the point of the series.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:02 PM on March 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Favorite cop: Bunk. The character provides an interesting counterpoint to the others; somehow he plays the game without the inevitable defeats destroying his soul; he seems to have found the best means of survival in the crazy system he finds himself. He's true police, but unencumbered by a need to somehow change the system. He lives by his code. I'm not arguing that this in any victory, but rather the only reasonable success a character can have in the Wire - he has a code, lives by it, but it does not lead him into the self-destructive windmill tilting other characters engage in. Please he's a humble motherfucker with a big ass dick.

Favorite criminals: Going for two here.

Having just re-watched season 3, I'm surprisingly a sudden fan of Stringer. RE-watching the season gave me a different appreciation for the man, who was trying to change the game he was playing and got caught between his two worlds.

And Omar (who else)? He is a mirror image of Bunk; the man who lives his code, just on the other side of the game. Where that code leads him is a different place.

Anyways, love the Wire, can't wait to download and listen to this.
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:06 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's at about the 45th minute when he starts analyzing the Wire directly, graphnerd, but all that 'rambling' does matter. Think of it like a buzzard circling down towards a dying animal, spiraling towards a center. At the 45th minute is when Žižek sticks his beak into the flesh of The Wire, but the slow descent is important too.
posted by Kattullus at 2:06 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh good, graphnerd said it before I did. I like talking about the Wire as much as the next guy but "unstructured, disconnected rambling" about sums up much of the actual lecture.
posted by Justinian at 2:07 PM on March 2, 2012


It's at about the 45th minute when he starts analyzing the Wire directly

Oh god, you're going to make me listen to the rest of it.
posted by Justinian at 2:08 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Apart from the intrinsic interest that is really there ('tis the power of The Wire that is forcing him to be so concrete?), really funny that he's using the word 'Dickensian.' Without a lick of irony that I can detect.
posted by rudster at 2:15 PM on March 2, 2012


Robber: D'Angelo

You know, I'm convinced that D'Angelo's story is the most tragic in the whole show. One of the few characters without any hope or hint of redemption. Even the kids could someday grow up and possibly have something good happen to them. D'Angelo was doomed from the start. The Wire's own answer to A.J. Soprano (without all the cheap comic relief)

Bunk [...] He lives by his code.

You could analyze every character in the show by whether or not they live by a Code. The sympathetic ones generally do. The unsympathetic ones never do. Some of them start out with a code and then violate it, while others start out without a code and then gain one.

I'm watching the show now for the second time now, and am a few shows into the second season. So glad I decided to re-watch it! I almost never do that with TV shows. But The Wire is like Tolstoy; I can't believe how much I missed the first time around.

I've also found that it's helpful to watch it alone -- that way you can go back and re-watch scenes where you're not entirely sure what was said or what happened. I feel it's important to do this, because on The Wire, EVERYTHING matters.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:20 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Cop: Lester. Criminal: Clay Davis.

Sheeeeeeeyiiiiiiiit!
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:23 PM on March 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's fun trying to decide whether Slavoj means 'the utopian ideal' or 'my laptop' when he says things like: 'I hope it will function'.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 2:24 PM on March 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Robber: Omar - Because I'm not original.

Cop: Carver. Well ok I can't really pick a favorite - but I think Carver bears some special attention because he (sort of like Prez, another runner-up for favorite) moves in the opposite of the expected direction. He starts off amoral, abusive, and kind of a dick. As the show progresses, he grows a code, a conscience, a heart, and even some stones. And he doesn't get preachy or crusadey (mostly), just does what he can. One of the few (sort of) optimistic character arks.
posted by tempythethird at 2:34 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


You could analyze every character in the show by whether or not they live by a Code. The sympathetic ones generally do. The unsympathetic ones never do. Some of them start out with a code and then violate it, while others start out without a code and then gain one.

Yes, I think you're on to something there. In my re-watch, I've really been paying attention to the notion of "The Game" and watching all the games the various characters are playing. For example, the Barksdale organization has it's own, internal game, as do the cops, in addition to their mutual game. Their codes, from this perspective, are the particular rules they are trying to play their games by; what is interesting is to watch them try to either a) change the rules of the game, which meets from stiff resistance from other players or b) apply the rules from different games to their current situation (which Stringer tries to do a few times in Season 3 - apply the rules/code he carried on the street to his new game of development).

It's a fascinating show, and I suspect after I've completed my re-watch, I will need to go back for the commentaries and get a whole different perspective.

on a side note, this is a reason I love MetaFilter; I doubt I ever would have heard of the Wire without hanging out here
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:35 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Wire 'broke' TV for me. It's so heads and shoulders above anything else out there. I don't have access to live TV anymore, but I occasionally borrow TV series from the library. So far, I haven't seen anything else that comes close to being as good as and mattering as much as The Wire. Our country is so broken and only David Simon seems to think it important enough to show us some of the ways that this has happened. Everyone else just wants to continue amusing us to death.
posted by marsha56 at 2:58 PM on March 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


I had the same problem, marsha56, but two TV shows broke the spell for me. Prime Suspect is a British detective series which is, at its best, just as good as the best of The Wire, though it doesn't have the same sweep as The Wire. Kare Kano (a.k.a. His n' Her Circumstances) is completely different. It's an animé about Japanese high school students. It's about as different you can get from The Wire and still be an episodic television drama, but it's a show that does what it does perfectly and yet takes plenty of risks. Together these shows proved to me that there were other ways to make good television than the way The Wire did it. I then went on to enjoy many fine other dramatic TV series, though in the last couple of years I've been too busy and TV has fallen by the wayside (but I've promised a friend to watch The Wire with him, so hopefully I'll get back into the habit).
posted by Kattullus at 3:12 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


So far, I haven't seen anything else that comes close to being as good as and mattering as much as The Wire.

Boardwalk Empire is getting close.

(Also track down BBC's Our Friends In The North and Holding On... made before the time British TV by and large turned to shit)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:22 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a recap, he has a couple of key facts wrong: Snot's actual real name is the in the clip he plays and the Mayor's attitude toward Hamsterdam is not as critical as Burrell's.

Still nice listen.

Total Omar gal, myself, although he's representative in a different way.

Do academics get transcripts? Or do they actually watch 60 hours repeatedly?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:23 PM on March 2, 2012


Oh and fave characters

Well Omar obviously...

But I've got a soft spot for Prop Joe
And on the cop side it has to be Lester
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:26 PM on March 2, 2012


In other The Wire related news, the question of Best Character has been resolved* by executive decree.

* In US jurisdictions only, and subject to being overruled by the Supreme Court. Roberts strikes me as a Brother Mouzone kind of guy.


I don't understand how someone can be a fan of The Wire and Boardwalk Empire and still think we should be trying to stamp out drug use via arrests.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:58 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


And on the cop side it has to be Lester

AKA "Big Chief" on Tremé.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:59 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm so stoked to listen to this but I just started season 5. Should I mentally add SPOILER ALERT?
posted by bumpjump at 4:48 PM on March 2, 2012


Yes, he talks about the end of the series, bumpjump.
posted by Kattullus at 4:54 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Carver and Bodie, no doubt. Two sides of the same coin. They might as well be brothers.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:29 PM on March 2, 2012


No love for Herc, huh?
posted by grobstein at 5:31 PM on March 2, 2012


I clearly have not studied philosophy, nor have I much desire to.

Zizek's work is more entertainment than philosophy.
posted by jayder at 5:36 PM on March 2, 2012


No love for Herc, huh?

No love, but I do find him much more interesting after this read.
posted by never used baby shoes at 6:21 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


No love for Herc, huh?

Re-watching, just having finished S4, it's amazing that I never realised how, over the course of the whole show, Herc is pretty much responsible for destroying (or rather, perpetuating the slow, systematic destruction) of the entire city of Baltimore. He's like Godzilla, or worse since Godzilla never had sergeant stripes in the Tokyo PD.

It's interesting to try and figure out the ways in which Herc is actually a good police officer, because on some levels he is, but it's those incidents that require qualities he himself obviously lacks yet he knows others possess - a brain (the saga of Fuzzy Dunlop, which Lester or McNulty could've pulled off) or a heart (looking out for Bubbles, like Kima did) or the ability to heed wisdom (as Carver continually does) - that he fails, each and every time triggering catastrophic consequences for everybody except himself.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 6:26 PM on March 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


rudster, you should read this FPP
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:40 PM on March 2, 2012


jayder: Zizek's work is more entertainment than philosophy.

You say that like it's a bad thing. What I find most interesting about Žižek is how he his use of unseriousness allows him to make very serious arguments in novel ways. Instead of getting caught up in minutiae, he makes a joke about the minutiae and moves on. I find this aspect fascinating.

If all that levity is too much, tThere are some very serious people who express themselves in the Q&A section and they certainly make you wish they could crack a joke. Also, I wish they'd talk more about The Wire and less about the Eurozone crisis. I feel like I learn more about the crisis when Žižek talks about The Wire than when he talks about it directly.
posted by Kattullus at 9:05 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


When my wife and I finished S4, I commented, "You know, this season could just have been subtitled 'Herc Fucks It Up.'"
posted by Scattercat at 9:14 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Herc blithely moves through life causing untold and inhumane amounts of misery and remains completely and totally unaware of it. Herc is a monster.
posted by The Whelk at 9:41 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've never watched The Wire ... but then, Žižek hasn't either (as he reveals during the Q & A - "I'm a theorist; it is not necessary.") -- and ... this didn't detract from my appreciation of this presentation.

Three points? ... arbitrarily:

1.) The Wire inevitably resorts to a kind of simplistic Lion King 'circle of life' resolution, which detracts from its creators' ambitious claim of being a 'Greek Tragedy'.

2.) Every action has an opposite but unequal reaction (the cop who was killing to 'clean the hood' of drug dealers creates the justification for a new force - one that will return the hood to previous state). -- Žižek also goes deeper into this when discussing Libya and giving arms to 'liberation forces' (i.e., to be realistic about those arms later being turned back against the ones who sent it)

3.) Jon Stewart ("a too left leaning liberal") once said something beautiful ... he showed that the idea of a 'ruling class' is a joke ("The ruling class is losing all power; but don't be glad of it, it is very dangerous.")
posted by Surfurrus at 9:58 PM on March 2, 2012


I listened to all of it, and while parts of it were interesting, I didn't find much of value, frankly. Truly, the comments here have shown more depth.

Also, while I respect his discussion of "the Dickension aspect" of the show, he makes a claim that Dickens had myterious benefactors and other things which would save the day whereas in The Wire those elements would just bring more trauma.

Have we really forgotten about Bunny Colvin adopting Namon?
posted by Navelgazer at 10:06 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, as I said above, my favorite cops/criminals are Lester/Stringer, but like Afroblanco I think that's largely because I love the smartest guy in the room, especially when they have to fight for themselves against forces of ignorance. But I also love Prez, who is so, so loathsome in Season 1, until he finds where he should be, and spends the series redeeming himself without any real victory. And Kima, a real police who gets so devoted to the role that she can't see anything else, but to her credit only becomes better police for doing so. Or Cedric Daniels, moving from a hardass of obstruction to a hardass of rebellion. That's pretty awesome.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:37 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Surfurrus, it sounded to me that he was a bit more positive on the show than that. I think he's saying that The Wire authentically stages class antagonism but it's only Simon's social democratic politics that forces him to resolve things with dissatisfying circle-of-life pessimism - he cannot imagine going beyond capitalism. But the portrayal of all social institutions - police, schools, newspapers, politics - failing to prevent these tragedies exposes the truth.

Kattallus: You say that like it's a bad thing. What I find most interesting about Žižek is how he his use of unseriousness allows him to make very serious arguments in novel ways.

Very true. Also don't forget that psychoanalysis treats humor quite seriously, going back to Freud's The Joke and Its Relation to The Unconscious. More recently there is Alenka Zupancic's The Odd One In: On Comedy that Zizek wrote the preface for and is part of his Short Circuits series that he edits.
posted by AlsoMike at 10:41 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


You could maybe infer from Namon's smile and nod to Donut, as he rides past Colvin's house in yet another stolen car, that he's not completely "saved". For all his noble efforts and self-sacrifice, we don't actually see Bunny succeed in changing a damn thing as police or educator. Namon could turn out to be his next project, one just as doomed as Hamsterdam.

(I don't recall if Namon's fate is shown in S5 - I saw that one so long ago I watched it on an actual television.)
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 10:45 PM on March 2, 2012


S5 shows Namon on the high school debate team, embarrassing Bunny a bit when he meets Carcetti.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:53 PM on March 2, 2012


Oh yeah, I remember that bit.

Well, does it still count as dickensian if only one out of the four kids is saved by a miraculous benefactor?
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 11:06 PM on March 2, 2012


Well, that friendly Arabber helps Dukie learn his trade and teaches him how to give himself insulin injections for his diabetes.

Why do people call this show a tragedy again?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:27 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


AlsoMike, yes, good points. I also liked the way Žižek told of how season-by-season The Wire unveils themes on the 'crumbling' of society. I actually really enjoy Žižek's (tangential) style - and his humor ... even if I can't recall many points afterward.
posted by Surfurrus at 11:39 PM on March 2, 2012


Possibly my favorite thing that the show does, actually, is to give that salvation to Namon. Because of all four of the kids focused-on in Season 4, he's the least likeable. We see Michael's fate, and Dukie's and (good god) Randy's, and Namon, the little prick, is the one who gets a chance...

And then, a moment later, you realize that's exactly right. Namon is still a kid, just like the rest of them. Why shouldn't the least among them (morally) get a chance?

God I love this show.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:43 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


We see Michael's fate, and Dukie's and (good god) Randy's, and Namon, the little prick, is the one who gets a chance...

The show also had a bit of that in its backstories. One of my favorite little bits is when ex-cop Herc finds out Prop Joe knew Commissioner Burrell in school:

Herc: I gotta ask. What was he like...?
Prop Joe: Stone stupid.

Oh yeah, favorite cop, Bunk, favorite criminal Stringer, but you know who gets slept on? Sergei. Sergei's great.
posted by furiousthought at 12:34 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I prefer Boris.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:06 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I prefer Boris.

Boris. Why always Boris?

It's impossible to pick a favourite character; there were just so many great ones. However, a few months ago, I installed a cork bulletin board on one wall in my office, to hold maps and plots and diagrams for the projects I'm working on. Two hours later, I'd half-covered it with a fairly accurate replica of the S2 bulletin board, based on an obsessive viewing and screen-capture of the montage with Prez and "Ring of Fire". Along with Horseface, White Mike, Sergei and Nicky, every time I close my door, Frank Sobotka stares at me with those accusing eyes of his.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:38 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I find most interesting about Žižek is how he his use of unseriousness allows him to make very serious arguments in novel ways.

Exactly this.

I rather enjoyed this lecture, just like I did Zizek's The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, where I thought he did an especially fascinating dissection of Tarkovsky.
posted by rahulrg at 3:04 AM on March 3, 2012


Me: jayder: Zizek's work is more entertainment than philosophy.

Someone else: You say that like it's a bad thing. What I find most interesting about Žižek is how he his use of unseriousness allows him to make very serious arguments in novel ways. Instead of getting caught up in minutiae, he makes a joke about the minutiae and moves on. I find this aspect fascinating.

Actually I didn't mean it in a bad way. I just know what what he does isn't philosophy, which is a very specific discipline that Zizek doesn't seem to participate in. If forced to put him in an academic discipline, I would argue its closer to comparative literature or semiotics or something like that.

What I like about Zizek (I've read pretty much nothing he has written) is that he admits he writes knowledgeably about films he's never actually seen. I love that.
posted by jayder at 4:08 AM on March 3, 2012


Oh, and the "entertainment" thing. I do think his career has gotten to the point that he must be regarded as much as an entertainer as an intellectual. He is peculiarly gifted at "doing media" such as TV appearances, film cameos, interviews, happenings, etc.
posted by jayder at 4:11 AM on March 3, 2012


The show is so great (fuck it, it is) that it's easier to select moments, rather than characters.

Season 1: Kima engaging in police brutality, when you're like 'o shit no Kima u r a saint, no!" Death of Wallace. The fuck/fuck/fuck scene. "Tap tap tap." "Where's Wallace, String!" Rhonda having sort of a celebratory lunch over bagging the family and then gets the phone call and it's from the horrible lawyer and over his shoulder you see D'Angelo with his Ma.

Season 2: What? A goose in the bar? What? No. Not even Bodie. But I guess it gets better in Season 3, so --

Season 3: Carcetti. The double betrayal. Jimmy agonizing over how Stringer didn't know he'd got him on the wire. Every single fucking moment, watch it.

Season 4: Every single fucking moment is brilliant if you don't agree with me you are so wrong and stupid.

Season 5: Everything is glorious, except you don't get to see the lying reporter disembowelled.
posted by angrycat at 4:32 AM on March 3, 2012


Wow, this is one of those worlds colliding moments that I love. I love Zizek, and I love The Wire. Awesome thing, thanks for posting!

As for my votes:

Criminal: Bodie. The section of season 4, towards the end, that shows Bodie and Mcnulty building a precarious alliance of understanding is so great. Starting with Mcnulty sitting with him in the carry out place, he just becomes so sympathetic. Watching Bodie lose it over Lil Kevin and Wallace, watching him kick out the cop car, and how everyone walks away from him--even Poot--when he dissents against Marlo publicly is amazing, and Bodie and Jimmy sitting on the bench, both recognizing that the other is principled in his own way... just a perfect string of episodes there. Not to mention, Bodie is one of the only characters who truly goes full-circle in the show. His death is the most heartbreaking thing I have ever seen on tv.

Cop: I might be alone here, but Herc. Herc is like the perfect emblem for an unthinking cop whose job makes him an absolute ass, but one who still seems like a dog-loyal kid in over his head. He's like the police version if the corner kids. I love the scene when Herc and his arrestees play around with the Make-a-Face software trying to build their perfect woman. That scene illustrates perfectly Herc's little kid nature.
posted by broadway bill at 6:31 AM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Furiousthought:

The scene when Sergei turns down Marlo's offers is amazing, and might be my favorite single scene in the series:

"In my country, this is not fucking prison. This is nothing. I don't need money. I don't need fuckinggg canteen. I don't need you."

Plus, without Sergei, you and your cousin would be cadaverous motherfuckers, right?
posted by broadway bill at 6:39 AM on March 3, 2012


jayder: I just know what what he does isn't philosophy... I've read pretty much nothing he has written

LOL
posted by AlsoMike at 12:56 PM on March 3, 2012


Hey, jayder is just following Zizek's lead. Jayder is a theorist; it is not necessary!
posted by Justinian at 1:26 PM on March 3, 2012


Jayder: I just know what what he does isn't philosophy... I've read pretty much nothing he has written

alsomike: LOL

Yeah, one step ahead of you there.
posted by jayder at 1:26 PM on March 3, 2012


Yes, I did pick up on that. But the real point is that jayder wants to reserve the term "philosopher" for the very specific discipline of analytic philosophy. This has nothing to do with Zizek in particular, which is why it isn't necessary to read him.
posted by AlsoMike at 1:50 PM on March 3, 2012


*removes glove* Analytic philosophy is not philosophy, it's a bourgeois and reactionary anti-Marxist field of retreat. A particularly American academic bubble. There, I said it.
posted by mek at 3:59 PM on March 3, 2012


No love for Herc, huh?

Herc is a dumber version of McNulty - another character who just doesn't recognize his effect on those around him as in any way his fault or responsibility. Both have clear, ramrod-straight (albeit completely divergent) concepts of what "being good police" entails. Neither really understand their own limitations. Both experience "false arcs" - McNulty seems to develop in the third and fourth seasons into something approaching a responsible family man, only to fall apart in the fifth, and Herc's rise in the force after splitting with Daniels' group turns out to just lead him beyond his competence. Both end up outside the force they loved so much.

That said, Herc has some moments that complicate the picture, doesn't he? His interaction with Bodie's grandmother was, in season one, an interesting mirror to Kima's beating the shit out of Bodie, or Rawls' conversation with McNulty after Kima get's shot - you see characters who you'd neatly slotted in as "sympathetic/good" and "unsympathetic/bad" doing things seriously and startlingly out of character. Likewise Herc's willingness to help out Carver with Marlo's number, and his resigned reflection on his police career. One of the reasons I love the show is Simon's principled unwillingness to write even secondary characters as one-dimensional.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:39 PM on March 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


Even freaking Poot is weirdly complex, if you look hard. While he's not nearly as determined to succeed in the game as Bodie, he seems to understand it better. He takes the gun from Bodie and finishes Wallace when Bodie goes into shock; he challenges freaking Stringer Bell to his face, knowning damn well that the latter's vision can't survive the realities of the street, where violence is just as vital as money to status and power.

He tries to get Bodie to abandon the corner when Marlo comes for him, and escapes to finally end up working at (if I recall correctly) a shoe store, the only one of the original Three Young Hoppers to survive. He's really the only character I can recall who makes it off the street with no help from anyone (even Bubs has his mentor, family, and financial aid from Kima). Poot is loyal, smart, a survivor - and completely unappreciated by those around him throughout his entire career.

And also, if the backhand testimony of Bodie and the wire is anything to go by, a serious player in that other, most basic of human games. So here's to Poot.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:49 PM on March 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


Just going to relink this, thanks for bringing it up, never used baby shoes; it is great reading. Those of you discussing Herc, do not miss this. (Also my professor. But still, great.) The Life and Times of Fuzzy Dunlop. The greater text from which it originates is worth attention: The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television.
posted by mek at 1:40 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was just thinking of that scene in the shoe store the other day... reminded me of something I saw in a documentary about crime in the uk. That it's mostly young kids and if they can manage to avoid prison and all the subsequent stigma that entails then a lot just grow out it, get jobs of some sort and settle down.

I love the scene at the end of this - the idea that at the end of the day, cops and robbers do the same sort of thing in their off time (I also seem to remember there's some stuff about how they eat in the same places - a great scene with McNulty and Bodie)

I you want a really comprehensive overview of The Wire I'd recommend The Guardian's Re-Up, it's also worth digging down into the comments as seem to remember they are more intelligent than the usual.

(Now trying to resist burning the whole day watching Wire clips on the 'tube)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:33 AM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Smacketology - A tournament to determine The Wire's greatest character
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:52 AM on March 7, 2012


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