More On The Wire

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OPEN UNIVERSITY SEPTEMBER 14, 2006

More On The Wire

by Eric Rauchway
John's already shown that the only way you can be a "Wire"-hater is to talk about something other than what you actually see on "The Wire": On the screen even the minor characters are, as Dan Jardine says at The House Next Door, "graced with the sort of detail and shading that you normally only find in leading roles."

For my money, the only less-than-delicate touch in the opening episode came in the rumble between the protagonist boys and the kids from the terrace: Our guys were wearing white shirts and the terrace guys were wearing black shirts.

I suppose we know, too, that the white-shirt boys will end up in Pryzbylewski's classroom (and maybe McNulty's kids too?) and that Freamon's wire subpoenas will affect Carcetti's mayoral chances.

The dueling PowerPoint presentations in episode 1 summarize the problems that "The Wire" has always been concerned with. In an excellent short sequence, the show cuts back and forth between disgusted teachers being told to remind themselves "I Am Loveable [sic] and Capable" and disgusted cops receiving binders full of useful information on how to watch out for terrorists. In each case, a highly bureaucratized institution in love with acronyms and codification is filtering the complexity of experience into the sterile order of procedure. If "The Wire" has any noticeable politics at all, here's where they come in: institutions--be they unions, political parties, gangs, police departments or schools--always fail us because they are inherently inhuman. What's worth while comes from outside these institutional structures, or thrives in their interstices.

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