RE: HBO's The Wire: Dignity or Despair?
Thank you for starting this discussion on what I believe is the best television series ever created in terms of writing, directing, and just raw storytelling power. After my roommate introduced me to the first episode of the first season, I dropped everything besides work, and spent the next ten days plowing through the first three seasons (I’ve yet to see any of season four or five). During that gluttonous week and a half, I found myself responding to everyday questions with words and phrases like “believe” and “mos def.” I even had to catch myself from blurting out McNulty’s mainstay, “what the puck did I do?” when I was called into my boss’s office after a late-night Wire binge. Now, more to the point, I think you are both right. What made The Wire so powerful for me is the compelling interplay of personal decisions and institutional/cultural pressures. What makes so many of these characters so human is the goodness and evil that resides in all of them, and the cultural influences that compel (could one even dare say “force”) all of them to live as less than integrated individuals. We all live in our own little worlds where we balance between the exercise of virtue and vice (with the sins and virtues expressing themselves in more muted situations and choices, of course). This show could definitely use some more redemption and hope, for sure, but what I found interesting is that when small acts/expressions of goodness showed themselves, they came through with a great deal of beauty, and offered refreshing nuggets of hope (in the characters of Cutty and D’Angelo, for instance, not having the benefit of viewing the later seasons). And I agree with Romanowsky that Cutty would be an extremely interesting person to have a drink with. What I’m curious about is whether a show of such power can be created about a world occupied by holy, virtuous people? And can artistic virtuous people, once reaching a certain level of holiness, create shows like The Wire? For now, I will join Ron and look for hope somewhere else (my hopes for The Wire were dashed when the arch of D’Angelo’s character was bluntly ended with his prison offing.)