Some high-level, overview thoughts on The Wire (2002-2008) —
After seeing this show often listed with The Sopranos and Breaking Bad as the triumvirate of the Third Gold Age of Television, I recently watched all 5 seasons of The Wire for the first time. I was a huge fan of both The Sopranos and Breaking Bad (both being shows that, intentionally or unintentionally, deliver conservative and even identitarians messages), so I figured it was time to check out The Wire, even though I’m highly averse to the police procedural genre. (I was drawn into the show by about S01E05. Sidenote: I was a big fan of David Simon’s earlier, short-lived HBO show The Corner, which was in many ways a test run for The Wire).
While it’s not up to the caliber of the former two shows, The Wire does provide something of a case study in how a liberal showrunner can inadvertently create content that buttresses conservative perspectives. The Dissident Right can interpret the same empirical phenomena (characters, actions, motivations) depicted in the show in a very different way, and that, more than anything else, is the show’s strength.
From his real-life experiences in the environs, creator/showrunner David Simon unsparing shows Baltimore as the cesspool it is: a city of drugs, murder, fried chicken, fast food, and littering, of endless boasting and quick-tempered violence from young black males, of hoppers and slingers. The Baltimore shown is a de facto Third World country, where warlords — whether in the form of the endless army of black gang bangers, seemingly getting younger and more ruthless as the years pass, or corrupt black politicians (like the fictional Clay Davis) – protect their own narrow interests or siphon as much of the public coffer for themselves as they are capable of. Trust and loyalty means nothing. Social capital is eroded to the bone.
There’s a good amount of gritty, politically incorrect elements expressed in the show, and while liberal platitudes may be placed over these expressions in order to condemn them, this attempt largely fails relative to the rival explanatory power of conservative theory towards making sense of the same phenomena. In this sense, I don’t believe The Wire would be made the same way today. Wokeness has gotten so stifling, self-censorious, and out of control that the degree of ‘white saviors’ in the show would be found problematic, as would be the very depiction of urban black pathologies.
With respect to the character of unscrupulous, shyster, drug lawyer Maurice Levy, it is quite telling how much Jewish publications were kvetching heavily about this character. “Why, in a show so concerned with race and ethnicity, is the only identified Jewish character a stereotypical money-grubbing, scumbag lawyer?” asks Seth Madej in a piece titled “Is ‘The Wire’ Anti-Semitic?” (See also: “Network Jews: Maurice Levy, the Jewish Lawyer from HBO’s ‘The Wire’” by Dov Friedman).
“Why did we make this guy Jewish?” responded David Simon, who is himself Jewish, “Because when I was covering the drug trade for 13 years for the [Baltimore] Sun, most of the major drug lawyers were Jewish.” [See
“The Politics of Brisket: Jews and ‘The Wire’” by Keith Kahn-Harris].