Watching HBO’s The Wire With My Eyes Wide Open
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Originally Posted On: https://www.sheshenapledger.com/blog/7
“…a little slow, a little late.”
-Avon Barksdale, The Wire (S1, E5)
HBO’s The Wire premiered eighteen years ago today on June 2, 2002, as an innovative and raw depiction of law enforcement, the criminal element, and the politics behind the scenes in Baltimore, Maryland. Not only did it help propel the careers of a plethora of talented actors that are still celebrated today, such as Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, Michael K. Williams, and Tristan Wilds, it also became a favorite amongst countless fans nationwide, myself included.
As both a fan and a writer, The Wire has become a priceless source of inspiration and motivation, so much so that it’s inked in my skin on my tattoo sleeve consisting of my favorite shows of all time.
Yet, as I find myself watching it all over again for the first time in nearly a decade, I find myself shocked at the realization of just how raw it was when weighed against the tensions surrounding law enforcement and the politics of today.
CONTEXT: As a part of my writing ritual, I usually watch an episode of one of my favorite shows before each writing session to get my creative juices flowing. I started the ritual with The Wire and watched it so much during the first few years of my writing journey that I had to shelf it and start incorporating my other favorite shows, like Sons of Anarchy, Vikings, and Spartacus. But last month, I was commissioned to draft a web series that compelled me to go back to my day one and watch The Wire during my writing ritual. After nearly a decade since enjoying it, I found myself astonished at just how much it parallels to current day events. The dichotomy between the law and the criminal element is one of the most captivating aspects of The Wire. Not only did The Wire showcase a vast range of criminals and criminal activity, but it also reflected a wide range of law and law enforcement, providing fans with favorites on both sides of the fence. Two of my faves on the law enforcement side of the coin are the Batman and Robin duo, Herc and Carver. Their natural chemistry and brotherly banter are entertaining enough in themselves, but their interactions with the young hoppers had always felt like the cherry on top during my early days of watching The Wire. However, watching The Wire again amidst current day events has made me battle with an uncomfortable and unnerving realization. There were a rare few instances throughout the entire five seasons of The Wire that I can recall shaking my head at in disgust during my early days of watching it ritualistically. Only one of them involved an abuse of power from law enforcement: Pryzbylewski’s pistol-whipping and blinding of a black teenage hopper. Watching it eighteen years later amidst the current day and age’s plight to hold members of law enforcement responsible for their abuse of power makes me wonder how and why I found humor or entertainment in its eerily accurate depiction of the same type of abuse that has caused worldwide upset and protests today. Perhaps my reaction came a little slow, a little late. But after giving it considerable thought, I realized the distinctions between the two and the resolution to my pondering. The Wire was groundbreaking with its inside look at the lives of criminals, law enforcement, and politicians. But although it may have been inspired by true events, The Wire was fiction. Furthermore, even though The Wire depicted interactions between law enforcement and criminals in the act of committing crimes, it never reflected racial bias between law enforcement and blacks and minorities. And it never portrayed law enforcement killing unarmed blacks or minorities. Since The Wire provides an inside look into the relations between the criminal element, law enforcement, and the politics behind the scenes, this month for the premiere of my Character Corner Blog, I’ll be dissecting the characters who made fans fall head over heels for The Wire, as well as the phenomenal actors that breathed life into them. First up to bat for tomorrow’s blog is my number one favorite, Avon Barksdale. Until then…