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This might be hard to sum up, but I wanted to offer a space for reflection as to what the “takeaways” are from this course and the series. Big thoughts, little thoughts, whatever – but what do you think is going to stick with you?

As a launching-off point, check out the editorial written by five Wire writers trying to answer the question, “what should we do?” on the eve of the series ending in 2008.

5 Responses to “What do you take away from the show?”

  1. Andrew Ostroff says:

    1. We cannot trust large institutions. Every single institution presented in this series was corrupt on some level, and this is a disturbing reality. That said, it is a realistic truth that we must accept. Thus, instead of looking towards instituions for solutions to our problems, we must often rely on individual acts of kindness and altruism.

    2. There is a dominant culture in society, and those that do not possess the cultural capital required in order to relate to this dominant culture are bound for failure. This most often requires an individual that belongs to this dominant culture taking individuals from minority cultures, and helping them “move up.” Stringer strives to enter into this dominant culture (his desire to receive an education supports this idea), and Namond, it seems, succeeds with the help of Bunny Colvin. Interestingly, this takeaway translates very well to the one mentioned above.

    3. This course reinforced why we must study television. I really don’t feel as though any further explanation is necessary here, simply because there are to many things to consider that have to do with the relevance and importance of The Wire.

    4. Selfishness rarely makes you any friends, but it gets you places in life. I think of Rawls, Valcheck, Landsman, Marlo, Avon, and Levy in particular.

    5. Humans do not have the capacity to understand and internalize the potential consequences of the decisions they make in life. McNulty, Lester, and Colvin lose their jobs, Kima looses her girlfriend, Dukie succumbs to drugs, Randy suffers in the group home, the list goes on and on…

    I know there are many more to add to this list, but I think this is a good start!


  2. Addison DiSesa says:

    As I was doing research for my final project, I came across a study that included an introduction imploring scholars to focus on the successes rather than the failures of our institutions. Clearly, “The Wire” focused mostly on the failures that exist in American cities. There were, however, several “successes” (i.e. Namond, Bubbles, McNulty?). Somehow, I think that we need to prop up these achievers. The newspaper story on Bubs is, I believe, a way that we can draw attention to those who embody hope in our society. A black kid who learns how to speak in a grammatically correct way should not be labeled “white” just as a white kid who does not speak in perfect grammar should not be labeled “white trash.” We should not be complacent and accept these discriminatory tendencies. Those who discriminate or label people should be ostracized.

    In our community at Middlebury, we have work to do in order to achieve a more perfect community. Hippies should not label bros in the same way that bros should not label crunchy kids. It sounds silly to say (or write) but the fact of the matter is, we always find ourselves placing one another in categories. As soon as we stop labeling each other, then we can stop labeling people who we never see except for on television in a fictional context. This has been a rambling post and it certainly smacks of idealism, but if we cannot strive for an ideal world then we may as well accept the status quo.


  3. Tom Ladeau says:

    Something I took away from the show, particularly the last episode was contentment at the same time as cynicism. The show seems to say, “this is the way the America works, and its messed up, but you just need to do what you can as an individual.” The show is not entirely negative, and the individual success stories at the end portray this. Simon said in the Bill Moyers interview that the show is pessimistic about systems/institutions, but optimistic about individuals. The cyclical nature of each season and the show as a whole suggest that nothing really changes much, the systems stay the systems, “the king stay the king.” The show seems to be saying that individuals cant change the system, but can make changes in their own lives, stay true to themselves, and have a chance of finding meaning/contentment/peace in a world full of these corrupt systems.


    Tom Ladeau Reply:

    I meant to stress the word “chance” in my last post. Success is not by any means guaranteed, as many of the characters demonstrate.


  4. Johanna says:

    hi Jason et al,

    I’m teaching a class on surveillance in cinema and tv in the fall and want to spend a week or two on The Wire. Can you suggest some readings that are appropriate for an upper-level seminar, especially ones that discuss urban surveillance?



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