The Wire

The Wire as Dickens

The Wire, polarising TV classic, pretentious and damaging art, or Victorian period piece stolen and passed off as modern… It doesn’t matter what you think of it (be you a West Wing fan, or Baltimore’s Chief of Police), The Wire raised some bars for television production in a manner that suggests it will be one of the lasting cultural texts of our generation, much like Dickens was for his…

You should read this – and read the particularly hilarious (but f-bomb ridden) retelling of a piece of the Wire’s dialogue, which, in the show, consisted simply of the said f-bomb being used in all its adjectival forms.

Check out this essay that treats The Wire as a Dickensian piece of culture that our current cultural milieu can’t stomach properly.

“In our age, we can never experience a modern equivalent of The Wire. We would be unwilling to portray the lower classes and criminal element with the patience or consideration of Horatio Bucksley Ogden or of Baxter “Bubz” Black. We would be unwilling to give a work like The Wire the kind of time and attention it deserves, which is why it has faded away, instead of being held up as the literary triumph it truly is. If popular culture does not open its eyes, works like The Wire will only continue their slow slide into obscurity.”

Baltimore’s Police Chief on The Wire: “I don’t like you”

The Wire is a gritty police drama focused on the city of Baltimore. It doesn’t really depict the police institution in the most flattering light.

David Simon, the director of The Wire responded, and I think we can all say “oh snap”…

Others might reasonably argue, however that it is not sixty hours of The Wire that will require decades for our city to overcome, as the commissioner claims. A more lingering problem might be two decades of bad performance by a police agency more obsessed with statistics than substance, with appeasing political leadership rather than seriously addressing the roots of city violence, with shifting blame rather than taking responsibility.

Coming soon, Obama’s views on how the West Wing makes the presidency glamourous.

Via 22 Words.

The West Wing v The Wire

Nothing gets media studies students salivating like The West Wing. Except The Wire. They’re a bit polarising – it’s like the Canon v Nikon, or Mac v PC debate. Two products of similar qualities targetting similar demographics with slightly differently nuanced tastes.

It’s about user experience. Do you want to watch TV to feel smart? Then watch the West Wing, do you want to watch TV to feel superior to the dirty criminals running the streets and the beat-cops paid to curb the uncurbable? Then watch the Wire. Do you want wit or grit? Macroeconomics or microeconomics? Barksdale or Bartlett? McNulty or Ziegler?

A couple of people dialoguing a review of the new Facebook movie The Social Network described the difference nicely, I’ve edited out the swearing for those for whom that sort of thing is an issue:

“SFJ: Let’s compare “The West Wing” and “The Wire.”

NVC: I’d love to!

SFJ: Sorkin talk makes everybody feel smart and makes the s***y world look OK because making money and being an a*****e is fine as long as a deserving nerd wins. This appeals to nerds and anybody who fancies themselves as SMARTS. Further, he goes in hard on lexis—the act of delivering words—and lets the characters walk you through everything that would either be the job of a) acting or b) the audience using their heads. It is a way to load middlebrow content into totally fun speed talk that saves many people some hard work while feeling highbrow, because only smart people can talk that quickly. It’s like associating athletic skill with height, de jure.

SFJ: Think of how many Sorkin characters are sort of Flat Erics who talk, rapidly describing every idea that could have been acted out. The advantage is you can cram a lot of action into one episode. The downside is a weird, Aspergersy sameness to every project. Actors become court stenographers in reverse, spitting out Sorkinese and then stepping aside to let the next block of text barrel through.

NVC: Agreed.

SFJ: “The Wire,” on the other hand, doesn’t mind alienating you. It eliminates spoken exposition (lexis) in favor of mimesis. This is an entire world, it is full, and you had better take notes if you want to keep up. You have to WORK. People who don’t look like you may be in charge for a minute, maybe for a long time, and nobody has the moral high ground.

NVC: THERE IS NO PRESIDENT BARTLET IN BALTIMORE.

SFJ: Sorkin loves the abasement that is a by-product of believing in the high ground. It’s in everything Sorkin does.”

The Strip

It seems I was right. Apparently The Wire, Underbelly and The Sopranos – and any other media “text” that demonise Strip Clubs are on the money.

The Courier Mail reports that Queensland’s adult entertainment businesses are regular law breakers and dens of iniquity.

Treasurer Andrew Fraser made a comment that I’m sure the Courier Mail story delighted in presenting in an almost out of context fashion…

“Treasurer Andrew Fraser yesterday defended his department’s enforcement, saying many “cowboy outfits” had been removed in recent years.”

I believe he was talking about businesses not complying with legislation – rather than a Western theme.

I promise this will be the last time I write about strip clubs. But it’s interesting to note that they aren’t particularly nice places after all. Remember that Mr Prime Minister.

Stripped Wire

Robyn and I started watching “The Wire” last week. This doesn’t mean watching cables outside, but a highly recommended TV series labeled by some as the best thing since the West Wing. That may be true. There’s even a university course dedicated to dissecting it. But three episodes in, it hasn’t really gripped me. It’s hard for me to put a finger on just one thing. There’s a lot of swearing. I’m not really all that sensitive to swearing – Robyn is though. I don’t like watching television my wife isn’t comfortable with. It makes me uncomfortable in turn. The dialogue is certainly pacy. Which is nice. That was part of the West Wing’s charm. It has compelling characters. Which is another box ticked.

A lot of the discomfort I think I’m feeling is to do with the scenery. Half the scenes with the villains are set in Strip Clubs. I confess I don’t see why this is necessary. It’s hackneyed. The Sopranos already did it. Suddenly the strip club is essential for gangster office chic. Is that what it’s like in real life? Should we be more concerned about K-Rudd’s notorious visit to Scores? Was he really getting down and dirty with the seedy underbelly?

There’s a long, well documented association of organised crime and the flesh trade, and by association the drug trade. And The Wire is certainly pushing for the “gritty reality” crime drama merit badge. That’s the vibe they’re going for. So I can understand the move from a screenwriting standpoint. It doesn’t make as much sense from a commercial standpoint. The “cult hit” nomenclature is an oxymoronic attempt to sell more DVDs. It means “non mainstream success” or “salvageable bomb”. Nobody sets out to make a cult classic.

You’ve got to wonder if steering clear of material that is likely to make husbands uncomfortable to watch the show with their wives is part of the recipe for commercial success. I know I’d feel more comfortable watching without the gratuitous nudity. I’m not sure if this is just because I’m a Christian or if non-Christians feel the same awkwardness. Obviously my moral compass has a lot to do with my Christianity. But this just seems like a case of bad commercial sense. The people who get kicks out of all the gratuitous nudity are unlikely to switch off because of its absence. It’s almost a lack of confidence in their product.

You’ve got to wonder what strip clubs are thinking of this premium exposure. Does it help or hinder their cause to be portrayed as the ubiquitous criminal hangout? Even in 21, the Kevin Spacey card counting flick the team of college card counters made a Vegas strip joint their “out of casino” headquarters.

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