Saturday, September 16, 2006

What are we really saying when we say The Wire is the the best show on television?

Wire criticism has gone extremely meta. Everyone from Gawker to eebmore has noticed the comparisons to Dickens, Shakespeare, and the elevation above all the cinema and television of the last century. The show devastates me, too, but I can't figure out why a show with The Wire's subject matter is the one to be given these unprecedented accolades. To some degree, it disturbs me.

David Simon has no intention of changing the world with his show. Fer Christ's sake, it's about the primacy of institutions over individuals who flail like a beetle on its back with what agency they have left. But how can poverty, crime, violence, disrespect for life, and all the things we abhor about the existence of an underclass be the top priority on television, but be such a low priority in real life? Simon takes everything that terrifies us about the inner city and puts it inside a tiny box in our living rooms. Is that as close as we'll ever get?

I've got a lot of thinking to do about this. More later...

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