Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Politics of the Wire

Ta-Nehisi Coates, who rocks, has a post on whether The Wire can be viewed as a "conservative" show. He thinks that by the end it's just nihilistic, but I don't things are so bad. Repetitive yes, but nihilistic? Those are some strong words. In the words of Walter Souchek: "Nihilists! I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos."

His post had quite a bit of discussion. Nice to see that The Wire can still generate some passion. Here's my comment:

Wow, it's great to see this much discussion on The Wire long after the end of the show (and Generation Kill). When is Simon's next project up?

I really don't think The Wire can be a blank slate on which anyone can project their own political slant. And I definitely don't think you can argue that TW is conservative at heart.

In my opinion Season 4 is the biggest argument against a conservative idea that in America, anyone who really sets their mind to it and works hard can rise to great heights. The four boys showed they had many skills to offer society, and the desire to do so, yet only one- Namond has a chance to attend college and leave West Baltimore.

Similarly, libertarians rejoiced when Bunny Colvin legalized drugs in Hamsterdam. Yet, this wasn't the freedom from government that makes up the libertarian utopia. It was merely new regulations about where people could or could not sell drugs. Nothing was utopian about Hamsterdam.

Simon attacked unions in season 2. The Democrats' longest running interest group could not stem the tide of capitalism and deindustrialization.

And don't even get Simon started on centrist politicians. Other commenters have mentioned the false hope embodied in Carcetti's New Day or the thinly disguised corrupt political machine operated by Clay Davis. Simon couldn't even muster up much vocal support for Obama in various interviews. His view on politics was that "I think it is actually a little bit overly moneyed and broken."

Nor can we say the show is leftist, though I believe that if Simon lands anywhere on the spectrum this is the place.

Ultimately, I think the show doesn't accommodate all these political views because reality accommodates all political views. Rather, the show accommodates none of these views because reality can't be seen through Republican or Democrat glasses. It's messy but beautiful, and that's The Wire's brilliance.

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