I’m still addicted; one last re-up
Season Five is out. So, um, hold my calls.
In the meantime, my provisional thesis is that The Wire has to be contextualized as a 21st century engagement with New Deal liberalism, which then both addresses the problem of its failures through a patina of nostalgic anger at disappointed idealism (Why aren’t things better! They should be better!) and a gloss of cynically arrogant disinclination to care, contemptuously dismissing idealism as naive (Society will never change! Why bother?). It is therefore deeply invested in the mythology of industrial US society, taking cowboy stories seriously and (to steal something Scrimshander said) “attributing the seemingly occult causality of capitalism to a nearly omniscient” character like Omar or his evil doppleganger, Marlo. And, at the same time, and without apparent cognitive dissonance, it wants to tear down every idealism, every myth, every ideology it can, in service of an awesome and cynical faith in realism.
How does it manage to think both of these things at the same time, you ask? What are the show’s real politics? Does it behoove us to use Freud’s interpretation of dreams as the key to all mythologies? Perhaps. Or perhaps we should also consider that the problem of how “the system” (whatever that is) mediates between all manner of antagonistic agents, thereby making sure that everybody gets screwed but nobody goes hungry/unexploited, is the pumping heart of the show, and that (especially in the context of the final season’s emphasis on the creation of stories) the problem of how it can think two contradictory things at the same time is not so much a problem for the show, but the very point of it all. After all, the show’s central metaphor, the wire, is a performance of the fact that opposites are connected, that their very contradictions is what necessitates their interaction.
Bonus Discussion Question #1: Does the theme music get worse every season?
Bonus Discussion Question #2: If the show continued for more seasons, at what point would the size of the cast grow so large that its gravitational mass would cause it to collapse in on itself and become a black hole?