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The Wire and America’s Sickness

December 14, 2010

Unusual for a TV crime series to be covered in The New York Review of Books but to its fans The Wire is special and it’s not even surprising that columnist Joe Klein could be quoted asking, “An Emmy? The Wire should win the Nobel Prize for literature!” President Obama says it’s his favorite TV show. Brave.

Think of Season Two, the best I’ve seen so far, in which the secretary of the longshoremens’ local, Frank Sobotka, stares at the abandoned factories and grain piers and notes they are now condos. Writes TYRB’s Lorrie Moore:

“His torment and lament – that this country once made things – is the nation’s own.”

I’ve started to wonder if the process of de-industrialisation, combined with the excesses of Wall Street and the housing mess, have been such a trauma the nation may not recover.

The wreckage of this society is on display in The Wire with its portrayal of drug-dealing as a new industry, the demoralization of poor urban blacks, the corruption of government and policing. This America would be unrecognizable to earlier generations. Did its World War Two heroes – its finest generation – shed their blood for this?

Since the flight to the suburbs in the 50s and 60s the one thing American civilization is really bad at is running cities. Urban policy is not it’s crowning glory. And The Wire’s portrayal of contemporary Baltimore makes that indictment stick.

The Wire, all 23 DVDs, is in your local video store. I know because I found it in Maroubra’s and that’s the worst video store in Australia.

One Comment
  1. Wade permalink
    December 14, 2010 6:47 am

    There are a few parallels closer to home too, Bob.

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