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We’re shifting away from readings about the social issues portrayed on The Wire toward readings on the show itself. Note that it’s hard to find readings that don’t contain any reference to things we’ve yet to seen, so you may want to read with a “mental fast-forward” when you see a reference to future events. I’ve tried to avoid sequencing anything too early that contains major spoilers, but there will be minor references at times.

Please post comments here on what you’ve read and whether you agree or disagree with various authors’ arguments.

3 Responses to “Open thread on readings”

  1. Benjamin Meader says:

    “Balancing on The Wire: David Simon and America’s Forgotten War ”

    This article had a wonderfully articulate way of synthesizing perhaps the larger purposes of the characters that we’ve been watching. As difficult as it was watching Herc and Carver during the first three seasons, it definitely pays off with Carver’s redemptive fourth season. The way the two characters provide insight to the work of daily police is very useful, and I might rescind my comment several weeks ago about “being sick of hearing their homophobic banter.” Their story-lines have paid off, in the same way “Cop in the Hood” helped humanize and put perspective to being an inner-city cop. Shaun Huston puts it simply and poignantly after describing the self-destructive tendencies of many police: “These aren’t excuses, but explanations.”

    He also mentioned that he thought Cutty’s story helped show that the only legitimate work for the urban poor was perhaps to serve the middle and upper-middle classes. I hadn’t really thought of that as being representative of the whole, but in retrospect it makes sense. Mowing lawns for rich people, or slinging on the corner? It’s a problem of economics as much as cultural subjugation.

    I also like his interpretation of season three’s Hamsterdam plot:

    “Drugs are a symptom of more serious political and economic problems. Legalizing drugs would no more cure those problems than participating in the drug trade is a foundation for a prosperous and secure life. Both are band-aids on social wounds opened up by race and class inequality and a culture that turns to war as a dominant metaphor for confronting its problems.”

    Our culture IS one that uses “war” to confront conflict. The way the corner kids confront problems in a mock server/served environment is shockingly similar to our domestic issues and our foreign issues. War on Terrorism, War on Drugs, War on Crime, War on “conceptual-words”. How can you be at war with a self-sustaining concept? If you don’t ruffle your tail-feathers and yell back then: “You a punk-ass bitch.”

    I like the idea that the thesis of “The Wire” is that our national/cultural myth is the glorification combative individual. A cowboy. Someone who doesn’t compromise, and won’t let someone tell him/her what to do. Systems are uncompromising, and the only people who succeed in them are the ones who show little compassion to anyone but themselves. The problem with this, seemingly, is that it is self-perpetuating. Never-ending wars will always need warriors and targets, and there will always be someone else to pick up the gun.

    I don’t like this “idea”, but I like the way the Wire tackles the issue.


  2. Benjamin Meader says:

    We read “The Women of the Wire” quite some time ago, but I came across this article “Women and The Wire” that has some sharp arguments about the portrayal of women in the show. Why do we care for Bodie as a product of a messed up system, but not at all for Namon’s mother? Not saying I agree with everything Sophie Jones says, but maybe worth checking out…


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