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January 18, 2011 3:14 PM   Subscribe

“You know what Miami gets in their crime show? They get detectives that look like models, and they drive around in sports cars. And you know what New York gets, they get these incredibly tough prosecutors, competent cops that solve the most crazy, complicated cases. —What Baltimore gets is this reinforced notion that it's a city full of hopelessness, despair and dysfunction. There was very little effort—beyond self-serving—to highlight the great and wonderful things happening here, and to indict the whole population, the criminal justice system, the school system.” —Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, on the effect of The Wire on Baltimore’s reputation. posted by kipmanley (119 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
And you know what New York gets, they get these incredibly tough prosecutors, competent cops that solve the most crazy, complicated cases.

Sort of like another David Simon-related show "Homicide: Life on the Streets?"

You can't compare Miami Vice or Law and Order to The Wire.
posted by muddgirl at 3:16 PM on January 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sort of like another David Simon-related show "Homicide: Life on the Streets?"

No, not really.
posted by docgonzo at 3:17 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's why those other shows are fluff and The Wire is good.
posted by enn at 3:19 PM on January 18, 2011 [38 favorites]


I'd like to hear from the Sheriff's Department of Reno, Nevada.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:21 PM on January 18, 2011 [68 favorites]


I have a niece who had three offers for her Postdoc, 2 in Boston, and one in Baltimore (where she would be working under a personal friend of mine). Because of "The crime rep", she chose Boston.
posted by lobstah at 3:21 PM on January 18, 2011


Because of "The crime rep", she chose Boston.
posted by lobstah at 3:21 PM on January 18 [+] [!]


Eponysterical...
posted by saturday_morning at 3:22 PM on January 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


Yeah, sort of. I mean, it was hands-down a better show than Law and Order, and they didn't always catch the bad guy, but "incredibly tough prosecutors, competent cops that solve the most crazy, complicated cases" is a pretty good description of, say, seasons 3-7.

Also, this:
But publicly, let me state that The Wire owes no apologies -- at least not for its depiction of those portions of Baltimore where we set our story, for its address of economic and political priorities and urban poverty, for its discussion of the drug war and the damage done from that misguided prohibition, or for its attention to the cover-your-ass institutional dynamic that leads, say, big-city police commissioners to perceive a fictional narrative, rather than actual, complex urban problems as a cause for righteous concern. As citizens using a fictional narrative as a means of arguing different priorities or policies, those who created and worked on The Wire have dissented.
is a pretty good argument for why Simon got a McArthur grant.
posted by muddgirl at 3:23 PM on January 18, 2011 [26 favorites]


Jonesy responds
posted by mannequito at 3:23 PM on January 18, 2011


...and the aliens in "Star Trek" look suspiciously like humans with bumps on their heads, and Batman would probably be killed after a month of fighting crime, and Jeb Bartlett would never in a million years get elected president.

It's fiction, not documentary. The creator's obligation is to the story, not to an unvarnished depiction of reality.

Yeah, they didn't highlight the "great and wonderful things" happening in Baltimore. They didn't show Munch going to the bathroom, either. You pick, you choose, you tell your story.
posted by PlusDistance at 3:24 PM on January 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


is a pretty good description of, say, seasons 3-7.

Agreed. Or, as I think of the, the seasons where NBC tried to turn the best cop drama ever on network television into Law and Order: Charm City.
posted by docgonzo at 3:24 PM on January 18, 2011


Well, before that images of Baltimore made me think of John Waters. John Waters made me think of the eating poop scene in Pink Flamingos. By the transitive property, Baltimore used to make me think of eating poop.

I'd have to say, anything the Wire has done for their image is an improvement.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:24 PM on January 18, 2011 [16 favorites]


"Or, as I think of them"...
posted by docgonzo at 3:25 PM on January 18, 2011


Baltimore is significantly more fucked up than either New York (now) or Miami (in the 80s). Substantial parts of Baltimore look like they were bombed out. Those photo essays about Detroit? Baltimore got there first. All those "vacants"? They weren't set dressing.

It's also an awesome place that I love, and I'm sorry I don't live there still. But, as someone who lived and worked in Baltimore during the years The Wire was filming, I have to say that The Wire represented a true Baltimore for a substantial portion of the population.
posted by OmieWise at 3:25 PM on January 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


David Simon's response is very intelligent and articulate.
posted by entropone at 3:26 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, this is a pretty good argument for why Simon got a McArthur grant.

Not to mention this:

"The first season of The Wire, which is fictional but based in large part on the experiences of Baltimore Detective Edward Burns," he said, "is nothing more or less than a treatise against the drug war and a policy prohibition that has turned vast tracts of your city, the city that this council claims to govern and administer, into a barren battleground in a neverending war of attrition.

"Those of you who suggest such a viewpoint ought not be seen or heard in connection with Baltimore. ... I don't know what to say. I can only note that until we all begin to honestly assess the urban drug culture and our militarized response to it, there will continue to be more tragedies like the one that recently befell the Dawson family on the city's East Side. That got you more bad headlines around America. That got you more of a reputation around America than anything I put on HBO. That got you the editorials in The New York Times."
posted by vorfeed at 3:26 PM on January 18, 2011 [14 favorites]




And L.A. got "The Rockford Files"... I'm okay with that.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:30 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just realized that David Simon talks and writes exactly like Tommy Carcetti (before the guy sold out), or rather the Carcetti talks exactly like Simon.
posted by muddgirl at 3:31 PM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Alright, alright, I'll buy the damned DVDs already. Sheesh. Avoiding spoilers for this show on MetaFilter while waiting for its turn in the queue is like trying not to run into the Tholian Web and instead having my credit card drained.
posted by adipocere at 3:31 PM on January 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I like Bealefeld, and I think he's made a lot of improvements, but I think he needs to consider that the two main stories in the local paper are the police shooting into a crowd outside a nightclub and a lawsuit against the city after a drunk, off-duty cop shot a Marine home on leave.
posted by electroboy at 3:31 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought the fawning over The Wire had to do with the classical Shakespearean way it told the story, and that it could be set anywhere. It's about a classic struggle, not about tourism. (Though it probably helped tourism a bit...)
posted by Catblack at 3:32 PM on January 18, 2011




And L.A. got "The Rockford Files"... I'm okay with that.

LA also got The Shield.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:38 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I want to know is what the Yankton cocksuckers thought about Deadwood.
posted by Rangeboy at 3:38 PM on January 18, 2011 [27 favorites]


You know what Miami gets in their crime show?

A serial killer as a lab tech.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:40 PM on January 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


doh!

Well, there was also a cop on cop shooting a couple years ago when police responded to a fight at a biker club and an off-duty cop who was celebrating his 44th year on the force attacked a uniformed officer with brass knuckles.
posted by electroboy at 3:40 PM on January 18, 2011


There was very little effort—beyond self-serving—to highlight the great and wonderful things happening here, and to indict the whole population, the criminal justice system, the school system.

Sounds like somebody never made it to season 4.
posted by designbot at 3:44 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter's/1000 people, 2009.

NYC: 0.06
Miami: 0.14
Baltimore: 0.37

So,Mr. Commissioner, when you can get your murder rates down to Miami and NYC rates, let us know. Until then, STFU about the 'bad image' w.r.t. crime.

As a matter of interest, my current city -- Ottawa, ON -- has a murder rate of 0.018/1000 people. Note the placement of decimals. So, yah, we would see Baltimore as some kind of crazy ultra violent place.
posted by Bovine Love at 3:44 PM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


What I want to know is what the Yankton cocksuckers thought about Deadwood.


They're cool with that one, they were all like, Heng Dai! about that shit.
posted by mannequito at 3:44 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


An additional note from the Wayback machine: Simon's been knocking down arguments like this for years. This was a comment posted at Yglesias' joint in 2008, when Yglesias's joint was at the Atlantic; they snarfed the comments over there, so I'll paste:
Writing to affirm what people are saying about my faith in individuals to rebel against rigged systems and exert for dignity, while at the same time doubtful that the institutions of a capital-obsessed oligarchy will reform themselves short of outright economic depression (New Deal, the rise of collective bargaining) or systemic moral failure that actually threatens middle-class lives (Vietnam and the resulting, though brief commitment to rethinking our brutal foreign-policy footprints around the world). The Wire is dissent; it argues that our systems are no longer viable for the greater good of the most, that America is no longer operating as a utilitarian and democratic experiment. If you are not comfortable with that notion, you won’t agree with some of the tonalities of the show. I would argue that people comfortable with the economic and political trends in the United States right now—and thinking that the nation and its institutions are equipped to respond meaningfully to the problems depicted with some care and accuracy on The Wire (we reported each season fresh, we did not write solely from memory)—well, perhaps they’re playing with the tuning knobs when the back of the appliance is in flames.

Does that mean The Wire is without humanist affection for its characters? Or that it doesn’t admire characters who act in a selfless or benign fashion? Camus rightly argues that to commit to a just cause against overwhelming odds is absurd. He further argues that not to commit is equally absurd. Only one choice, however, offers the slightest chance for dignity. And dignity matters.

All that said, I am the product of a C-average GPA and a general studies degree from a state university and thirteen years of careful reporting about one rustbelt city. Hell do I know. Maybe my head is up my ass.
—From the same snarfed thread, the following unsourced, inconclusive, utterly irrelevant piece of anecdata:
I clerked for a very conservative federal judge who was known in our district as the “hanging judge.” He was a huge Wire fan and his sentencing/judging really changed for the better since he started watching the show. Of course, I don’t know if it was the show for sure; but his view and treatment of the people coming before him changed dramatically.
posted by kipmanley at 3:44 PM on January 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


Well Treme paints a pretty bleak picture of post-Katrina NOLA but you found most people here having orgasms over it.
posted by localroger at 3:44 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Wire at least makes the cops competent, brilliant in some cases, and dedicated. It puts a very human face on low income blacks, they aren't just cardboard "gangsta" cutouts. If nothing else, it's bringing tourists to a city that doesn't have much in the way of attractions. He should go see the original Bad Lieutenant, that was a movie that made cops look bad.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:46 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a non-American, it never really seemed to me that The Wire was "about" Baltimore. Baltimore was where it happened to be set, but it was about systemic malaise, entropy, and the death of the Western system under the weight of infrastructure that nobody wants to pay to fund any more.
posted by Shepherd at 3:46 PM on January 18, 2011 [24 favorites]


Was Torbit wrong to fatally shoot unarmed civilian Seth Gamble six to eight times in the chest during a fight?

I still can't believe I read that sentence.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:51 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tourists are going to Baltimore because of The Wire?
posted by entropone at 3:52 PM on January 18, 2011


Oh indeed
posted by The Thnikkaman at 4:04 PM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


He wants to blame the Wire? Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit ...................
posted by freecellwizard at 4:07 PM on January 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


I once heard about a conference of US big-city mayors, about ten years ago.

The notorious mayor of Providence, Buddy Cianci, was chatting with his fellow mayors about the new NBC show that shared the name of his city. He was proud that the theme song and lots of downtown shots showcased his work in beautifying Providence.

The mayor of Baltimore replied, "Yeah, NBC has a show about my town, too. It's called Homicide: Life on the Street."
posted by borborygmi at 4:11 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


While I don't think I agree with the Commissioner's basic premises... I will admit that when I recently started to travel to Baltimore for work I did a little research about the city. And you know what the first things that came up? References to the wire. I wasn't about to take a fictional story as my only resource so I poked around a bit more of course. But it was a interesting first impression :)
posted by cirhosis at 4:14 PM on January 18, 2011


This reminds me of when The Bronx took umbrage at its portrayal in Fort Apache the Bronx.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:16 PM on January 18, 2011


muddgirl: I just realized that David Simon talks and writes exactly like Tommy Carcetti (before the guy sold out), or rather the Carcetti talks exactly like Simon.

Ha! I was thinking the exact same thing when reading this quote. I couldn't help but hear Carcetti's voice in my head when I read it. Uncanny.
posted by kprincehouse at 4:22 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a current Baltimorean, I'll say that I don't know a single person who walks around all day commenting about how it was represented in The Wire. These problems, as Mr. Simon points out, are not new and cannot be solved overnight with a criticism against a television portrayal.

Despite what it looked like in Season 5, the Baltimore Sun has been avidly reporting every shooting and every murder. I do hear that people are tired of seeing it, wanting the press to put it away in favor of fluff stories. The alt-weekly The City Paper runs a "Murder Ink" column about each homicide, the yearly count, and current developments of homicides in trial.

In my estimation, the Commissioner is just volleying a cheap shot to stir up a debate and to get people taking up sides. In the end, you're still stuck with lots of murders and a damaged school system.
posted by BenzeneChile at 4:32 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


David Simon: "What the fuck did I do?"
posted by bwg at 4:49 PM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


As a matter of interest, my current city -- Ottawa, ON -- has a murder rate of 0.018/1000 ...

More trivia... Louisiana leads 2009 with .52 .
Is it like GTA for real down there?
posted by uni verse at 4:54 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well Treme paints a pretty bleak picture of post-Katrina NOLA but you found most people here having orgasms over it.

Don't forget K-ville (2007-2008)! Everyone likes a gumbo party whatever the fuck that is.

No, but seriously, just forget K-ville.
posted by gordie at 4:59 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let me just say that, unlike The Sun, WYPR, the local NPR affiliate, should get some kind of Pulitzer for looking the other way. They fired (on air, no less - very classy) the only local on-air personality, Mark Steiner, who was willing to acknowledge the city's problems, or its existence, kinda.
posted by newdaddy at 5:14 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I thought the fawning over The Wire had to do with the classical Shakespearean way it told the story, and that it could be set anywhere.

The Wire is not Shakespearean but Greek.

Simon: "Our model is not quite so Shakespearean as other high-end HBO fare... But instead of the old gods, The Wire is a Greek tragedy in which the postmodern institutions are the Olympian forces. It’s the police department, or the drug economy, or the political structures, or the school administration, or the macroeconomic forces that are throwing the lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no decent reason. In much of television, and in a good deal of our stage drama, individuals are often portrayed as rising above institutions to achieve catharsis. In this drama, the institutions always prove larger, and those characters with hubris enough to challenge the postmodern construct of American empire are invariably mocked, marginalized, or crushed. Greek tragedy for the new millennium, so to speak. Because so much of television is about providing catharsis and redemption and the triumph of character, a drama in which postmodern institutions trump individuality and morality and justice seems different in some ways, I think.
posted by one_bean at 5:27 PM on January 18, 2011 [22 favorites]


I like David Simon a lot, but was he in a contest to see how many tiomes he could use the word 'postmodern,' or what?
posted by jonmc at 5:32 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tourists are going to Baltimore because of The Wire?

I did. Well, that and Homicide and John Waters movies and Barry Levinson movies and I've got a friend who live(d) there.
posted by crossoverman at 5:34 PM on January 18, 2011


The Balto. City PD has a twitter feed. They report every shooting. Of course, they also report every appearance of the Commish on local TV or radio. I guess that's balance.

On a related note, the constant whining from the PD and the Council about how the city is portrayed has led to the state defunding (via decreased tax breaks) film productions in Maryland, which has devastated the formerly booming film industries there.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:39 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Baltimore is a fine place to live, until it isn't. You can rationally tell yourself that there's an infinitesimal chance of being the victim of a crime, but then a friend is, and then you are, only a little crime, nothing that BCPD would actually care to send an officer out for, but it still shakes you. And then you find yourself looking over your shoulder every time you're out after dark, even before dark. And groups of kids on the street- kids!- start to scare you because you know someone who was beaten, badly, by nine year olds.

The Baltimore of the Wire is not the Baltimore students and professionals experience every day. But it reaches out into the rest of the city, fillings its ERs, poisoning its schools, breaking into its houses, harassing its people on the street, hurting them.

Since I moved away I sleep better. I'm not scared of walking alone in the dark. But I still feel a pang whenever I pass through on a train. Baltimore is, for better or for worse, part of me and I will continue to sadly watch from the sidelines as it collapses into itself.
posted by charmcityblues at 5:52 PM on January 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


There's a deputy sheriff in Mayberry who has a bone to pick as well.
posted by K.P. at 6:01 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Good heavens, that shooting outside the Hippo was on my block, while I lived there, and I guess I didn't even notice it. Could've been any number of nights with a lot of shouting and cop cars, I guess.

Oh, Baltimore, I do not miss you.
posted by Because at 6:09 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, every cop I've talked to has said that no matter where you live, the show that most accurately depicted what it was really like to be a cop was Barney Miller.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:20 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Countries Amount
# 1 Colombia: 0.617847 per 1,000 people
# 2 South Africa: 0.496008 per 1,000 people
# 3 Jamaica: 0.324196 per 1,000 people
# 4 Venezuela: 0.316138 per 1,000 people
# 5 Russia: 0.201534 per 1,000 people
# 6 Mexico: 0.130213 per 1,000 people
# 7 Estonia: 0.107277 per 1,000 people
# 8 Latvia: 0.10393 per 1,000 people
# 9 Lithuania: 0.102863 per 1,000 people
# 10 Belarus: 0.0983495 per 1,000 people
# 11 Ukraine: 0.094006 per 1,000 people
# 12 Papua New Guinea: 0.0838593 per 1,000 people
posted by Sebmojo at 6:37 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, that was in response to

Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter's/1000 people, 2009.
NYC: 0.06
Miami: 0.14
Baltimore: 0.37


So Bawlmore is better than South Africa! And Colombia!
posted by Sebmojo at 6:38 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, to recap. Miami cop shows consist of models in sports a cars and anti-hero serial killers.


My hometown is so freaking AWESOME!
posted by oddman at 6:41 PM on January 18, 2011


Eh. We got what he wanted here in Detroit. I wasn't particularly thrilled - the angle of it all seemed a bit cheap (Detroit! Murder! Together at last!). Anyone who mentioned it did not mention watching it, so I think the collective metro Detroit reaction was a Meh + Casting Calls for Extras.

I guess my point is, man. I wish we would have got The Wire instead.
posted by palindromic at 6:42 PM on January 18, 2011


I once heard about a conference of US big-city mayors, about ten years ago.

The notorious mayor of Providence, Buddy Cianci, was chatting with his fellow mayors about the new NBC show that shared the name of his city. He was proud that the theme song and lots of downtown shots showcased his work in beautifying Providence.

The mayor of Baltimore replied, "Yeah, NBC has a show about my town, too. It's called Homicide: Life on the Street."


I'm not sure, but that might have been Kurt Schmoke, mayor of Baltimore from 1988-1999, vocal opponent of the War on Drugs, and a bit player on the Homicide TV movie and The Wire.
posted by Rangeboy at 6:52 PM on January 18, 2011


And in Honolulu, the police are all from outside of Hawaii and surf!

And Cabot Cove, Maine has more murders per capita than anywhere and the police are so inept they need a nonagenarian to solve them!

And in Milwaukee, everyone is directly descended from Lenny and Squiggy. No actual fertilization was involved.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:10 PM on January 18, 2011


Was Torbit wrong to fatally shoot unarmed civilian Sean Gamble six to eight times in the chest during a fight?

As Joe Beese says, it is amazing that anyone could even type that sentence. Yet there seems to be a large portion of the population that thinks its okay to escalate a conflict from fists to bullets. I don't get it. It seems to be the same thinking that defends high-speed chases over a stolen car. Why are these things worth a life just so it can be immediately resolved? Why do we as an institution have to be stupid or crazy just because the criminal is?
posted by phearlez at 7:25 PM on January 18, 2011


Don't forget a burned spy in Burn Notice, oddman. However I am banishing you from the former Miamian club for remembering the name of the Dolphin but not Zeke's. "A place on Lincoln Road that sold beers for two bucks," please. I may well have served you that beer.

(Dave Sim was right; never fall in move with a bar)
posted by phearlez at 7:38 PM on January 18, 2011


In move, iPad? Love. Grumble.
posted by phearlez at 7:38 PM on January 18, 2011


The mayor of Baltimore replied, "Yeah, NBC has a show about my town, too. It's called Homicide: Life on the Street."

I'm not sure, but that might have been Kurt Schmoke, mayor of Baltimore from 1988-1999, vocal opponent of the War on Drugs, and a bit player on the Homicide TV movie and The Wire.


Sorry, but as a citizen of Baltimore during the Honorable Mr. Schmoke's tenure, that doesn't sound like him. Schmoke (to me) had all the personality of a cinderblock and even less capacity for humor. I'd believe it if you told me it was Schaefer, but the show predated him.
posted by idiotking at 7:42 PM on January 18, 2011


David Simon came to Washington DC a few years back to show an advance episode of The Wire about the Baltimore school system as a fundraiser for nonprofit I was working for. He did a Q&A after the screening and one of the questions was about the city government's reaction to the show.

Simon noted that the city at one point threatened to tell them they didn't want them shooting in Baltimore anymore, to which Simon said he explained to them that they'll happily pay a different city to shoot their show; but they're still going to say it's Baltimore.

They kept shooting the show in Baltimore.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:49 PM on January 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, I'm from Teaneck, New Jersey. All I've got was a reference in that last Star Wars review video thingie. So.... yeah.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:54 PM on January 18, 2011


That's weird I'm developing a show about Teaneck right now for the USA network. Its about a gay guy and a lesbian who are cop partners and it's called Coffee, Tea, and Meneck.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:03 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]



"SHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEIT!"

Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, on the effect of The Wire on Baltimore’s reputation.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:06 PM on January 18, 2011


Yet there seems to be a large portion of the population that thinks its okay to escalate a conflict from fists to bullets

Ignoring that specific case, you can most certainly kill someone with your fists. I don't think it's reasonable to say that it's never appropriate to respond with a gun to a situation involving unarmed combat.

(example - if I'm attacked by an MMA fighter I wouldn't consider it unreasonable to shoot him)
posted by wildcrdj at 9:13 PM on January 18, 2011


Extra extra; read all about it:

Shitty city claims their cops aren't shitty.
Also, detroit cops caught in drug trafficking trade.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:17 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, to recap. Miami cop shows consist of models in sports a cars and anti-hero serial killers.

They could do a real-life crime thriller (previously) set in Miami that's more similar to The Wire than the silly shows.

I dream of a CSI: Miami/Dexter/Burn Notice triple crossover, but I can't figure out the logic. Dexter only kills bad people and he always gets away. The CSI: Miami crew always gets their man (and isn't Dexter in their crew?). Michael Westen helps people who break the law, but are basically good guys. Would he help Dexter escape Horatio Caine?
posted by kirkaracha at 9:17 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


They are both right.

The Wire was an incredibly accurate depiction of Baltimore about 8-10 years ago. The crack wars were in full force, the bodies piled up, and the police were in full-bore compstat mode. That's when Burns was a cop and Simon a reporter. They wrote what they know, and it was right on.

But I sympathize a little with Bealfeld. He's the most un-Wire like commish we've had in a long time, and there is a lot less dysfunction and stats worship than there was. (Not none, just less). The murder rate is still high but has dropped a lot in the last few years. And the schools also have begun to turnaround under Alonso.

Baltimore deserved much better than it got back when Simon was brewing up "Homicide" and "The Wire". We seem to have finally got it, to a small degree, though there's still plenty of crime, vacants, and corruption.
posted by jetsetsc at 9:20 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ignoring that specific case, you can most certainly kill someone with your fists. I don't think it's reasonable to say that it's never appropriate to respond with a gun to a situation involving unarmed combat.

(example - if I'm attacked by an MMA fighter I wouldn't consider it unreasonable to shoot him)


The problem lay with the idea that you do not know if and when you are going to be attacked by an MMA fighter. If you did, you can call the cops and tell them to meet you there.

If you don't know, the only thing you can do is carry a gun on you at all times. But then you have to consider that you are more likely to (accidentally or purposely) shoot your dick, wife, son, daughter, neighbor, mailman, boss...than you are to encounter an MMA fighter who wants to attack you.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:21 PM on January 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know I've seen The Wire. I just finished reading The Corner and I have to say that this police commissioner is completely out of touch here. The events in The Corner take place a full ten years before The Wire was even dreamed up. When you have a homicide rate six times the national average there is something wrong with your city. All the window dressing, community involvement and political grandstanding in the world won't change that. Yeah, the number of murders has fallen, but acting like the '09 total of 238 is something to brag about because it doesn't match the astronomical totals posted in 1993 is just wrong.

Yeah, blaming the messenger always works out so well.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:22 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you don't know, the only thing you can do is carry a gun on you at all time

Well, cops do that. I guess my example was bad because this was more about cop shootings. My point was that I believe there are times it is justified for police to use firearms against an unarmed opponent who could seriously injure or kill the cop or another civilian.
posted by wildcrdj at 9:25 PM on January 18, 2011


entropone writes "Tourists are going to Baltimore because of The Wire?"

If I was in the area I might take a drive by some of the featured locations; give a real world perspective on locations and their relative positions. Sort of like my visit to Dallas including the plaza where Kennedy was shot.
posted by Mitheral at 9:32 PM on January 18, 2011


Miami got science fiction and New York got melodrama. Baltimore got the best television show ever made. So somebody should shut the fuck up.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:45 PM on January 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


The Tour
posted by doctor_negative at 10:07 PM on January 18, 2011


Yeah, we got the same thing going here in Portland... → our version of a meeting with The Greek.
posted by blueberry at 10:23 PM on January 18, 2011


Tourists are going to Baltimore because of The Wire?

Me and my coworker did. We only had an hour or so, but it was long enough to try the Faidley's crabcakes that are good enough that McNulty can bribe the beat cops in season 1 with them. They're that good, and better. We even wound up on Maryland Public Television for our troubles.

Okay, it was more for the crabcakes than the tangential Wire connection.

And also for the transit, but now you just think I'm weird.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:50 PM on January 18, 2011


Beat-up little seagull
On a marble stair
Tryin' to find the ocean
Lookin' everywhere

Hard times in the city
In a hard town by the sea
Ain't nowhere to run to
There ain't nothin' here for free

Hooker on the corner
Waitin' for a train
Drunk lyin' on the sidewalk
Sleepin' in the rain

And they hide their faces
And they hide their eyes
'Cause the city's dyin'
And they don't know why

Oh Baltimore
Man it's hard just to live
Oh, Baltimore
Man, it's hard just to life, just to live

Get my sister Sandy
And my little brother Ray
Buy a big old wagon
To haul us all away

Live out in the country
Where the mountain's high
Never comin' back here
'Til the day I die

Oh, Baltimore
Man, it's hard just to live
Oh, Baltimore
Man, it's hard just to live, just to live
Randy Newman
Baltimore from Little Criminals 1977
posted by Grangousier at 11:04 PM on January 18, 2011


...We only had an hour or so, but it was long enough to try the Faidley's crabcakes ...
Shoulda ordered the scrapple...
posted by blueberry at 12:14 AM on January 19, 2011


Dexter Morgan is living proof that Horatio Caine hasn't got a fucking clue.
posted by bwg at 12:33 AM on January 19, 2011


Bealefield should have limited himself to talking about how the show jumped the shark in Season 5.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:51 AM on January 19, 2011


I don't know. The Wire is, when all is said and done, entertainment—entertainment that just happens to be predicated (like the hip-hop industry) on the assumption of Black dysfunction and criminality. Which is then marketed to a primarily White audience that seems suspiciously eager to be constantly reminded of (and reassured by) these dysfunctions, while convincing themselves that their racial prejudices are just a taste for the authentic. As though a TV show is—or ever could be—authentic.

I don't agree with its argument entirety, but there's a harsh reading "against the grain" of The Wire here that got a lot of people's backs up at the end of 2009. A taster:
Without ... racist tribal loyalties on the part of the black electorate, there would be, [The Wire] suggests, no black politicians in prominent positions, because there can be no reason, other than this outrageous black privilege, for the electorate to choose them over white candidates, who are as a rule more competent, fit, and though of course not perfect angels of selflessness and superheroism, morally and intellectually superior to their black competition. Simon’s southern wisdom is not obscure: Good “Negros” know their place; it goes without saying that any Negro aspiring above it must be wicked and corrupt. In the “data” Simon provides himself – the authenticity, the “realism”, of the programme's depictions of daily life - that hypothesis is validated.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:17 AM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you don't know, the only thing you can do is carry a gun on you at all time

Well, cops do that. I guess my example was bad because this was more about cop shootings. My point was that I believe there are times it is justified for police to use firearms against an unarmed opponent who could seriously injure or kill the cop or another civilian.


Cops carry weapons on them not because they are worried about being attacked, but because their job is to engage where weapons are involved; they are not civilians. Everyone else is a civilian.

And yeah, its the cop's job to use whatever legal means are necessary to ensure the safety of others.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:38 AM on January 19, 2011


Hmm... Hadn't heard of this 'Treme' thing before... How's the show so far?
posted by kaibutsu at 2:52 AM on January 19, 2011


...We only had an hour or so, but it was long enough to try the Faidley's crabcakes ...

Shoulda ordered the scrapple...


Lake trout. WEST SIDE, BITCHES!!!!!
posted by En0rm0 at 5:49 AM on January 19, 2011


Spoiler alert:

I thought The Wire pretty clearly depicted white tribalism, and the fact that Carcetti wasn't any better than Royce (aka "meet the new boss, same as the old boss"), and Rawls wasn't really any better than Burrell. I think one of the strengths of Season 5 was how it criticized the predominantly white Columbia J-school system which produced journalists with no brains and no real heart for the job.

Basically, I disagree with the initial premise that Carcetti or McNulty (or any main character on the show) is supposed to be a sympathetic figure -- that we are supposed to be unquestionably rooting for Carcetti to succeed or that we are supposed to accept that he will bring his white rationalism to the city. At least, I read both of them from the very first to be both hypocrites and creeps, and in Carcetti's case quite racist in an institutional sense.

But I do agree with the criticisms of criminal or urban voyerism, and had many of the same problems with The Corner.
posted by muddgirl at 6:01 AM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Totally, muddgirl, I agree that the take on Carcetti excerpted above is wrong-headed. But there's a lot more in that post (and in the comments below the line) that really gets at what what's problematic in the show and its (largely White, predominantly elite) fandom. Viewed unsympathetically, it's a return of the "darkest Africa" trope of nineteenth-century fiction, with Baltimore standing in for the tropics. It fetishises the bodies, violence, and appetites of its characters. The prurient focus on murder and disfigurement uncannily echoes the pervasiveness of cannibal feasts in Victorian adventure fiction—all the better to demonstrate the iredeemable savagery of the Other, and our (the audience's) superiority and fitness to rule.

That so many people take this highly wrought (and deeply flawed) fiction as, simply, reality is a little disturbing.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:50 AM on January 19, 2011


Viewed unsympathetically, it's a return of the "darkest Africa" trope of nineteenth-century fiction, with Baltimore standing in for the tropics.

Viewed unsympathetically, anything good can be made into anything bad. We should always approach the arts with sympathy. I would ay you would have to bend over backwars while doing handstands on top of an unsympathtic pile of broken glass to get the reading you just proposed of The Wire.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:55 AM on January 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Baltimore deserved much better than it got back when Simon was brewing up "Homicide" and "The Wire". We seem to have finally got it, to a small degree, though there's still plenty of crime, vacants, and corruption.

Things may be improving on the crime front as well, with the election of Gregg Bernstein. From what I've heard from friends who work in the courts, he's supposed to be a really sharp guy and people are genuinely excited about his prospects. These people also had mostly complimentary things to say about his predecessor, Pat Jessamy, but said that she was a pretty ineffective prosecutor, partly because of her oppositional relationship to the police department.

Also, the city has started an open bid system to dispose of the vacant properties, a lot of which are city-owned through tax repos.
posted by electroboy at 6:55 AM on January 19, 2011


We should always approach the arts with sympathy
Should we? Even extraordinarily influential works of art? Ones so powerful—hegemonic, even—they shoulder out and replace the actual reality of the places they dramatize in the minds of their viewers? That are cited as influential by politicians from Obama to David Cameron? Aren't those precisely the art works we should be regarding with suspicion, or at least wariness?
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:05 AM on January 19, 2011


Shepherd: "As a non-American, it never really seemed to me that The Wire was "about" Baltimore. Baltimore was where it happened to be set, but it was about systemic malaise, entropy, and the death of the Western system under the weight of infrastructure that nobody wants to pay to fund any more."

No, it's very specifically about Baltimore.
posted by HumanComplex at 7:34 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ones so powerful—hegemonic, even—they shoulder out and replace the actual reality of the places they dramatize in the minds of their viewers?

If you can demonstrate that this has actually happened, I will believe your case. As it is, I think the Baltimore of The Wire is the Baltimore of The Wire, and that the real Baltimore is the real Baltimore. I also don't, for a second, believe CSI technicians in Miami have Star Trek computers or interview suspects.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:38 AM on January 19, 2011


By the way, even if that were the case, I reject you conclusion -- that somehow the show views Baltimore blacks as somehow akin to the way Victorians viewed Africans. It's simply a preposterous misreading of the show that deliberately ignores the real complexity of the show, and the fact that both crime and law enforcement is divided up between blacks and whites (among others). The entire second season focused on crime on the docks, which was mostly an ethnic white storyline, while many of the best policemen are African-American, while the most corrupt are white. It's a simplified reading that is only justified by choosing to be uncharitable, and this is what I mean when I say we must be charitable.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:52 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It fetishises the bodies, violence, and appetites of its characters.

So does Mad Men, and many people do try to argue that by fetishising masculinity it is by default celebrating it, but I think it's more complicated than that. Qlipoth seems to be arguing that The Wire presents these stereotypes of savage Blacks vs. civilized Whites completely uncritically, but I don't think that's true.

I don't think we can get away from the fact that The Wire was created by a white producer for a white audience, which is already a fact of institutional racism. I think given this fact, it's a show that does a lot to promote black actors and woman actors, and to promote three-dimensional story-telling that doesn't fall back on stereotypes but rather uses them to explore a kind of reality - not a replacement for Baltimore but a fictional Baltimore. Reading some of Qlipoth's follow-up comments, I have to think we were watching two different shows - and we probably were. That's kind of the definition of white privilege.

The fact that people go to Baltimore and take The Wire tours is kind of like how people go to Oxford and want to see all the places Harry Potter was filmed - of course it's thoughtless and completely uncritical of the media their consuming, but can we blame David Simon for that? Wouldn't that be the case even if he had set the show in a fictional city?
posted by muddgirl at 8:13 AM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the article Sonny Jim links to, the author references the scene where Carcetti visits a nursing home and is mistaken for a waiter. I saw that scene as being pretty clearly, to the point of obviousness, being about Carcetti's own unimportance and his own fate. He is shown repeated signs that the Mayor of Baltimore is a much-loathed, soul-corrupting position of surprisingly little real power, but he is driven to run for it out of a hubristic sense that he can escape that fate. He is, of course, wrong. So, being mistaken for a waiter is perfectly in line with this - he might as well just be some anonymous servant for the senile, but he ignores this omen in favor of a dream that he can effect real change.

That level of misunderstanding is the level at which the article is written - conclusion-first and lazy. I await a better critique of The Wire.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:14 AM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


while many of the best policemen are African-American,

I hesitate to speak for Qlipoth, but I think it's safe to say that they would find it problematic that the only "good" outcome for a street kid is to join the very institution that is failing them.
posted by muddgirl at 8:16 AM on January 19, 2011


Also, the article's claim that The Wire's alleged fixation on violence is rooted in Victorian cannibal fantasies is utterly off the wall. The violence in The Wire is rooted not only in authenticity, but also in a deconstruction of the crime fiction genre and also in Greek tragedy. There's nothing especially Victorian about the show's sensibilities, and there's certainly nothing cannibalistic about anything that transpires in the show. The killings are almost all entirely business-related, except maybe (white) Ziggy's hot-headed, moronic killing of the guy in the electronics store.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:18 AM on January 19, 2011


My point was that I believe there are times it is justified for police to use firearms against an unarmed opponent who could seriously injure or kill the cop or another civilian.

I'm sure they exist, but I contend that not only are they in the minority but they are often impossible to identify in the moment.

At the moment of conflict an officer is often operating on little information about the larger situation. That person refusing to stop for the police car may in fact be a serial killer with a string of ears as a necklace. However the odds more support that it's someone who's making a stupid choice or a joyriding teen. In the moment the right thing to do is consider the possible danger to innocents - high - vs the chance that the person getting away is actually a violence-mad felon - low.

We're comfortable with making this kind of statistical decision when it comes to buckling the seat belt which is far more likely to save us than kill us. But for some reason when it comes down to law enforcement we're perfectly cool with giving machismo and speed of resolution a priority vote.

I still remember a video from an encounter caught on video in South Florida where a nut behind the wheel engaged in erratic behavior until being herded into a parking space. Building in front of him, cars on both sides. A police car pulls in behind the person's vehicle, presenting the side of the patrol car to the person's bumper. The person (continues to?) panic and tries to ram his way out from a complete stop. He's unlikely to totally get free but he's doing some damage.

The other officers - at least four - on foot converge around the vehicle and open fire from three sides, killing him.

Until this moment nobody had been hurt. You could certainly call into question whether someone that amped up and willing to ram police cars is a risk to others. But did the situation justify what amounts up to firing squad? Absent the adrenaline of the moment, is it reasonable to think that between the two choices it was better for this man to die without a trial than for him to get free?

I don't know. For me that was a questionable case where I am just barely willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the officers and think that person was a probable danger to other people if he hadn't been stopped. But I question whether they took those actions with the trade-offs in mind rather than just being in the heat of the moment. If they had been trained and led with the firm and unyielding principle that it's better to let someone get away scot-free rather than shoot unless they are unquestionably going to harm others, would that man be dead?

I don't think most situations with an unarmed assailant rise to that level. I certainly don't think so in Brown's case. I've been through armed security guard training in Virginia (don't ask) and one of the critical points pressed into us was that we can never use deadly force unless we have attempted to retreat & diffuse the situation, regardless of who started the conflict.

The question is, is that a higher standard than we should hold officers to? What would be the repercussions to us if we stated that an officer, faced with violent resistance, is obligated to step back and call for support rather than use deadly force? What would be the down side if we say the officer is required to retreat and observe rather than escalate?

Pick up a copy of Pete Earley's excellent book CRAZY and read about the ways that mentally ill individuals end up dead at the hands of law enforcement. They're often situations where a gun ends a conflict with a knife. In areas where officers get specialized training they being those conflicts with armed and erratic individuals to a non-violent conclusion 10 times more often than regions that don't have those programs.

If we can show that level of success with people who are, by definition, behaving irrationally and unpredictably, is it so unreasonable to hold police interactions with everyone else to the same standard?
posted by phearlez at 9:12 AM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Wire is, when all is said and done, entertainment—entertainment that just happens to be predicated (like the hip-hop industry) on the assumption of Black dysfunction and criminality.

I think a key point that a lot of critics miss is that The Wire isn't just entertainment. It's one big roman a clef for events that actually happened, and resonate for people who live in Baltimore and know the mythology of the city. A few details change, but it's about as "true" as a fictional work can be.
posted by electroboy at 9:51 AM on January 19, 2011


but I think it's safe to say that they would find it problematic that the only "good" outcome for a street kid is to join the very institution that is failing them.

I don't think the show makes that case at all. The best police officer on the show was sent to a purgatory of working the pawn division for doing his job well. The experience of the cops is constantly paralleled with that of the drug dealers, and both institutions are shown as corrupt and murderous.

It's like people are making a case about the meaning of a show, but haven't actually seen the show.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:15 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's like people are making a case about the meaning of a show, but haven't actually seen the show.

Yeah, this. To expand on this point: The Wire is a three-dimensional show. To critique it, you're going to need to critique those three dimensions. It doesn't mean that The Wire is unassailable or beyond critique, but merely that the critique has to be intelligent. Knee-jerk contrarianism or selectively cherry-picking is going to get instantly eaten by the show itself, so that strategy is not going to work.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:22 AM on January 19, 2011


I think it's really unfair to assume that Qlipoth "hasn't seen the show" or isn't watching it "closely enough". From the follow-up comments I get no hint that they haven't, and indeed they have read more of Simon's work than I have.
posted by muddgirl at 10:36 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


As we are to understand there is a near perfect fit between McNulty’s personal ambition as a cop and the good of the whole society (perceived as excluding, and menaced by, a narcotrafficking “tribe”), we are made to understand that Carcetti’s self-interested quest to be elected is also in the best interests of the electorate, who do not know what is good for them, and who favour black candidates solely out of pernicious racist tribalism

This may have been written by somebody who saw the show, but it shows no indication they understood it.

I'm not going to unpack the whole meandering essay, although it seems rather shoddily built on one poor selection of words from Simon. I can address this paragraph, though. Or, rather, sub-paragraph, as the author of the piece hasn't done the readers the service of breaking their ideas down into readable compartments.

McNulty's personal ambition as a cop is not necessarily good for anybody, least of all for him. He's an enormously flawed character, quick to make assumptions and cut corners, which often has disastrous outcomes. He's good enough to know when something is going on that's being ignored, but not good enough to make the case on his own, and his personal relationship skills are poor enough that they constantly undermine the case he is working on. And, while he's a bit more of a detective than Herc and Ellis, who are content to bust corner boys, nothing he is doing gets at the root of the drug trade, and he certainly can't see beyond his main target -- while Lester, a much better and more cautious detective, wants to follow the money and expose a much larger corruption that works its way all the way up the pole, and expands beyond the world of the projects, into the docks, into international organized crime. All McNulty does it put away a few middle-level drug dealers, who are quickly replaced, and, when they get out of prison after a relatively brief sentence, they're ready to go to war.

And Carcetti's self-interest being good for the population? He certainly believes it to be, but there is no evidence of that in the show. None whatsoever. He's relatively impotent as a mayor, more of a lightning rod for frustration than somebody who can make good on his promises. This is why I am left wondering if the author of that essay actually saw the show.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:56 AM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look, I'm not going to defend a thesis I didn't write - I already made it clear that I disagree with the same premises that you disagre with. BUT I do not allege that the author didn't watch the show - I assume that they are watching in a different, equally-valid framework. That their reactions and experiences are as authentic as my own. Anything else would be, frankly, racist.
posted by muddgirl at 11:10 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, not racist, but something-ist.
posted by muddgirl at 11:15 AM on January 19, 2011


The entire thesis of The Wire is an indictment of The System and a humanization of the cogs in the system that previous to the show, most of its white audience may have seen as "the Other." They spent five seasons lending real depth to characters that in most other shows, movies, books, etc don't get any real chance. Yet someone expects this story to be told without violence?

That reading isn't unsympathetic, it's bordering on pathological.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:09 PM on January 19, 2011


In the comments Qlipoth repeatedly (when not accusing all comers of being themselves racists of the worst sort) states that the Wire's discussion of institutions happens only in interviews and publicity, and never in the show itself. This isn't just a different reading of the show; it's just wrong. Institutions are composed of people, and a big part of what makes the Wire the Wire is that it manages to tell evocative stories about fucked up institutions through the people involved in them, willing or not. It's not mere coincidence that the seasons of the shows correspond directly to institutions - police force and drug trade, unions, political elite, schools, newspapers.

This is evident in the narrative structure of season four, in which a cast-off cop takes up the job of a school teacher. His role in the story is as an outsider thrust into being a functioning part of the institution of the school; his novice status provides a medium to introduce the environment of the school, and to provide reaction to it. Prez, in a story about a safari to darkest Africa, would ride around in a convoy and comment on the need for a civilizing force. But that isn't the story being told here; instead, he has a job inside of the system, and spends the season struggling within it. Prez is horrified by the box-cutter incident, and not in a detached-observer-of-an-HBO-show kind of way, because it happens on his watch; in spite of all his cop training he stands there stunned and mute while another teacher comes in and takes the kind of decisive action required by the situation. The question posed is what kind of school system creates teachers more able to deal with emergency situations than a cop? And that, fundamentally, is a question about the institution, not the characters.

Also in the comments, Qlipoth accuses people of taking glee or joy in watching the box-cutter scene and ignores or denies comments to the contrary, effectively sticking his fingers in his ears and refusing to acknowledge that other people's experiences may not fit his own description of them. But, um, yeah, whatever.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:08 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I assume that they are watching in a different, equally-valid framework

I do not share that assumption.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:10 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Neither here nor there, but a friend of mine described The Wire as being ultimately about project management. Bosses with unrealistic expectations, workers of varying degrees of competence and endless complications to the completion of your tasks from "clients". When I was working at a particularly toxic workplace, I couldn't really get much pleasure out of watching The Wire because it all hit a little too close to home.
posted by electroboy at 1:49 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Prez, in a story about a safari to darkest Africa, would ride around in a convoy and comment on the need for a civilizing force. But that isn't the story being told here; instead, he has a job inside of the system, and spends the season struggling within it.
Sure, but the critique that Qlipoth is leveling at The Wire isn't, as I read it, so much about character as about audience, and audience complicity. Why are so many White, well-heeled viewers drawn to a show that deals in such large quantities of Black and working-class misery? To what extent are they simply consuming it, passively, as entertainment—confusing viewership with activism? Believing, as one commenter has it above, that we can simply eat the crabcakes of McNulty?

The more telling points in the critique, as I see read it, are those that deal with fandom, viewpoint, and spectatorship, rather than character.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:50 PM on January 19, 2011


We could make the same spectatorship argument against the essayist. All those White commenters reading an essay, confusing readership with activism!
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:44 PM on January 19, 2011


Why are so many White, well-heeled viewers drawn to a show that deals in such large quantities of Black and working-class misery?

Because it's an incredibly good, well-written show? Do I have to be a San Francisco cocksucker to enjoy Deadwood? People didn't watch it because it trafficked in human misery, they watched it because it was compelling and interesting.

To what extent are they simply consuming it, passively, as entertainment—confusing viewership with activism?

Most people watch TV shows for their entertainment value. I don't see where you get "confusing viewership with activism" out of that. The fact that it arguably had more to say than just entertainment doesn't mean that viewers think they're changing the world by watching it.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:56 PM on January 19, 2011


Sure, but the critique that Qlipoth is leveling at The Wire isn't, as I read it, so much about character as about audience, and audience complicity.

I think there's a lot of problems in the Qlipoth review, and chose to pick out one of the more glaring errors, one which, in my opinion, points to a fundamental misreading of the series, and which Qlipoth turns into some kind of media-academia conspiracy to inject meaning into the show that he didn't detect. It's reminiscent of the people who claimed that Brokeback wasn't actually about gay cowboys, and that said gayness was all injected by the media.

Let's not mince words. Qlipoth is making the accusation that David Simon is a racist imperialist, and that the white people who watch the show (the complicit audience) share in his racist imperialism. His argument is that the Wire is about violent blacks killing one another off and how it's they would be so much better off if they just submitted nicely to white rule. I've watched the show and really don't think this is what's going on. It's been a few years since I've seen the show, but I can still identify arguments that have gigantic holes in them.

The attraction of the Wire is that it brings to discussion some massive ongoing problems in the American system and engages them through storytelling in a way that the mainstream entertainment industry - even the parts dedicated to news and politics - has largely failed to do. These problems include failing school systems, a declining industrial sector, corruption in politics, an unwinnable and perpetual drug war, etc, etc, etc.

But, um, yeah, let's just watch more Desperate Housewives, yah? Something which doesn't perpetuate these dangerous racial stereotypes!!!
posted by kaibutsu at 5:22 PM on January 19, 2011


There is a black man chained up in a basement in the early Desperate Housewives. And I recall them literally swapping out actors, as though that didn't matter.

IT MATTERED WITH DARREN AND IT MATTERS HERE.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:42 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I watched all five seasons over the last few months and also the various interviews of the creators, which were usually at some university or other fairly dry, non-mass-media venue. The level of intelligence and complexity in the show is certainly far beyond most other shows I've seen, and Simon constantly talks about his anger at the system, at the drug war, and at our society for marginalizing large groups of people.

How anybody can read the show the way Qlipoth does is beyond me. And as a white middle class guy myself, I found the most sympathetic, interesting, and fleshed-out characters on both the cop/institutional and street/drug dealer sides to be the non-white characters.

Simon as an imperialist? Hilarious. If you've ever seen him speak about the issues underlying the show it's obvious how pissed off he is at the way things are and how much that drove the nature of the show despite the fact that the decisions they made limited the commercial appeal of the show. It had lousy ratings and IIRC didn't win a whole lot of awards when it was on, but kept on chugging anyway.

Why not pick on the other 8 million crap shows out there that are just blunt ad delivery instruments and show no real characters at all?
posted by freecellwizard at 6:32 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I want to know is what the Yankton cocksuckers thought about Deadwood.

Writers were a couple of fuckin' hoopleheads.
posted by dephlogisticated at 5:48 PM on January 21, 2011


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