Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Wire: You Gotta Keep The Devil Way Down In The Hole

The Wire is the greatest form of entertainment I have ever experienced (including film, TV, books, jugglers, Nutty the water-skiing squirrel, etc.). I never thought I could be so emotionally attached to fictional characters, let alone characters that I in almost no way identify with or would ever meet through real-life counterparts. It was impossible in my mind that a television show could actually change the way I view society, and manage to be damn entertaining at the same time. I also didn’t think a TV show could make me cry (the end of Schlindler’s List gets the waterworks flowing when Oskar breaks down thinking about how many more Jews he could have saved), but several moments on this show had me bawling.
The cult-like status of this show is a strange phenomenon. This show has had relatively terrible ratings during its 5 season run…I only know two people who have seen the show and I was the one who introduced it to them (now they are addicted). It has won exactly zero Emmy awards, an even greater crime than Reggie Bush winning the Heisman over Vince Young. Yet everyone who has seen the show states that it is without a doubt the greatest television show of all time. Why does a show that is loved by every critic and every viewer get terrible ratings and zero Emmy recognition? Well honestly, because most of the characters are unattractive, poor black people. Suburban white people want to see shows with pretty, white people (Friends, The Hills, Grey’s Anatomy, etc.), not shows about black drug dealers in West Baltimore. This doesn’t mean these people are racists, just people not willing to put in the effort to think while watching TV. But another major factor that hurts ratings is that this show is brutally honest and depressing. Nothing is held back, urban life is shown as it is. When characters die, there are no profound speeches or swelling music in the background; the person gets shot and his body lays there in a pool of blood.
Two major themes of the show stick with me the most. The first is politics. I had little faith in our elected officials before seeing The Wire and I have zero faith now. You learn that politics play a major role in every beaurocratic entity (government, police, schools) and only those who are willing to play ball move on. Those who actually try to change the system for the better are quickly chewed up and spit out. The second theme is children. I can’t believe there are children in this country whose mothers are crack heads who sell their children’s food in order to buy drugs. The heartbreaking thing is that situations like this are prevalent in America. You realize that some kids just don’t have a chance in life; some people are born with a mile head start in the rat race of life and many others are born with a broken leg and have no chance to catch up.
I will end with this: You have to watch The Wire. Every American should watch this show and get a glimpse into the real world, a world that is often dark, depressing, and unflinchingly unforgiving.


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