The Wire, (Not Quite) Ten Years Later

“Unlike in Dickens, in The Wire there are few Bob Cratchits or Micawbers, Joe Gargerys or Noddy Boffins, Mr and Mrs. Meagles; few of the representatives of simple, uncomplicated Christian virtue that Dickens places throughout his books as foils to both all the colorful rascals and to the heroes who are tempted and tried amid darkness and privation before coming back into the light. ”

What about Beadie Russell? Or Kima? Strong, “virtuous” females? Then, there was the stripper in season 1 who sees the “light” and becomes Freeman’s girlfriend? As for the men, what about Lester or even Daniels who bends but does not break?

Even the venal mayor in season 3 has a moment when after learning about Hamsterdam considers spinning it around into a good thing?

Omar, a murderous man with a “code” dies and dies for his “code”. Thus, the man has a kind of honor

Carver grows throughout the 5 seasons from little better to Herk to the next Daniels.

We could go on and on, but the claim that there are no good or virtuous characters or that there is no character development is false.

Even take Rawls. There are two scenes with show Rawls to be more than “one note”.

The scene when he tells McNulty that while he is a “gaping asshole” he is not to blame for Kima getting shot. In season 4 or 5 he shuts down Freman but says, as an aside, that it was “good policework.”

“The middle class black men tend to be sympathetic but inert, like Bunk the high-functioning alcoholic or Burrell, useless as a police commissioner but clever and sensitive as a politician.”

Rounded out by Freeman, Colvin, Carver and Daniels.

Take Bunk, he was able to shame Omar into helping out with the triple homicide. Omar may be seen by you as heroic, but Bunk knows better. We, the audience, get a rounded picture.

The link you had to “green room” is also inaccurate. There are black gangsters with some “humanity” like Barksdale, D and, yes, Chris but then there is Wee-Bay, Bird and Snoop and, of course, Marlo who are completely sociopathic.

The Wire is far more than what you have described here. It is a artistic testament, when read politically, to the absolute failure of democracy, the left and the Progressives.

It is a systematic portrait of a city (totally controlled by the Democrat Party) that demonstrates the truth of “public choice” theory.

The Barksdale gang is “successful” because it is run like a for profit corporation; ownership and control are (quite) clear. Lines of authority are clear and good employees are rewarded with “stock” (“points on a package”).

Then, there are themes within themes. One could view the feud between Avon, Stringer and Omar as that between USG and Al Qaeda. Stringer gives the same advice to deal with Omar in the same way Edward Luttwak might have given, but Avon tried to crush Omar and only ended up looking weak.

Reading the show politically we have:

Season 1: The failure of the police.

Season 2: the failure of neoliberalism, the death of work and the decline of the white working class.

Season 3: The failure of democracy and impossibility of meaningful reform within a democratic system.

Season 4: The failure of the education system.

Season 5: The failure of the media (the Cathedral) and the demonstration or the summation that modern life in America is completely corrupted by lies and bad incentives.

All in all, the Wire is about the failure of democracy, the failure of America.

Simon is a leftist, true. But if one looks at the show with reactionary assumptions, then it points to the absolute failure of the left on every single issue.


Over the summer, my wife and I rewatched the Wire from start to finish (we had missed a fair amount the first time it was aired.) It aged fairly well. It is a bit more formulaic than I realized at first, its surprises a little too carefully aimed at viewers’ sensibilities.  In an untold numbers of scenes, Burns and Simon place two characters that have some reason to oppose and dislike each other, on opposite sides of the law or separated by some barrier of race and class, and then watch them either come together and reach some kind of understanding, or drift further away in mutual incomprehension, or one before the other. Take the way the show introduces Snoop, the tiny teenaged hit-girl who appears in the fourth season:

The humor comes not from the Home Depot guy misunderstanding Snoop (what exactly is this girl using the nailgun for?)…

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