Friday, September 5, 2008

The Wire

This post is not going to be about Sarah Palin. I'm tired of reading about her. I mean, you've got to be kidding me.

I will instead tell you about The Wire, my most recent television related obsession (It's not airing anymore but you can get it on Netflix.)

The show creator, executive producer and head writer is David Simon. He lives in Baltimore (where the show is set) and specializes in criminal justice and urban issues. He worked as a police reporter at the Baltimore Sun.

Part of the beauty of this show is that it reveals things you thought you already knew and understood (but really didn't.) Such as how heartbreakingly slim opportunity really is when you grow up in the projects. (I am not claiming I now understand. Just that I've seen a glimpse of it.)

It's fascinating too because of its deliberate ethical murkiness. With a corrupt, bureaucratic police force, paralyzingly dysfunctional institutions and drug lords with a conscience, there is no clear right or wrong, good guy or bad guy. Everyone in the show is so irresistibly defective. Say what you want about virtue, but it's our flaws that make us who we are.

One of my favorite characters is Kima because she has learned to operate within a losing proposition of a system with strength and dignity, and manages to not lose sight about what her job is really about - to the extent she's willing to take a bullet for it.

I can't help but admire the rules and values the "bad guys" live by. How they look out for each other. How, functioning within tremendous limitations like poverty and ignorance, they manage to run an organized, cohesive operation anyone in the corporate world would admire.

I like Wee Bay because he's loyal and doesn't mind being in the line of fire (I mean that literally.) Deep down, don't we all want someone who'd kill for us?

If I was a woman living inside The Wire I'd fall in love with Lester because I like his perspective of the world and the fact that he's such a gentleman.

Stringer is the character that most dangerously walks the ethical line. While I'm horrified with him and his choices, I often grudgingly nod at the reasoning behind them. (He's good looking too. Lock up your wives.)

I think Mcnulty is a self destructive, egomaniacal train wreck. If I knew him in person I'd make an effort to stay as far away as possible. As the show evolves, so does my distaste for him. Since when does being good at what you do exempt you from the laws that apply to the rest of the world?

I'm fascinated by Bubbs (the snitch/addict) because I've always felt contempt for snitches and yet I think he's such a sweetie. We are nothing if not contradictions. The fact that we are strong doesn't mean we are not weak. We can be resourceful and brave and such cowards. The only thing stronger than his gift for survival is his penchant for self-destruction.

I could go on for pages about these people who inhabit my life for an hour a day. Omar and the scars that run across him. Avon, who I think gets it all wrong but might be the only one who gets it right. Daniels, who tries to be good and yet is stuck in a room without light. But the real star of the show is the expressive, foul, incredibly imaginative vocabulary the characters use. I genuinely worry that the language I hear on this show will seep into my subconscious and slip out during a client meeting.

If shows involving crime, race, violence, drugs and a consistent, complete disrespect for women don't normally attract you, just give it three episodes. After that, trust me. You're going to get got.

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