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How The Wire Changed My Life and Could Change the World

June 2, 2014

the-wire-season-1-poster-404x600Twelve years ago today marks the inception of one of the greatest televisions shows in the history of television, The Wire.  My devotion for The Wire began a couple of months ago when I decided to complete a personal task that had long been nagging me. For years I’d listen to people rave on about how HBO’s The Wire was the best show ever written, yet I knew nothing about the show itself nor did I know anyone who had watched it. At the time, Six Feet Under had ranked number 1 in my mental list of best television series due to its ability to confront the ambiguous topic of death while also examining the dysfunctional lives of The Fischer’s and their business owning a morgue.

For a while I thought no other show could achieve the greatness held by Six Feet Under. Creating and maintaining solid characters each of whom possess their own hopes, goals, and wishes over a span of five seasons isn’t easy. Not only is granting this type of extended development to characters a difficult feat, but creating an overarching theme that every single viewer who watches can relate to is as well. Yet, Six Feet Under held its ground as an extremely well written drama that’s thought provokingly entertaining and funny.

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HBO GO thankfully came into my life almost a year ago which graced me with the opportunity to watch the highly exalted The Wire. I started an episode and within about four months ended the series charged up with new personal convictions and political interests. While everyone at the time was becoming consumed by the season finale of Breaking Bad I found myself lost in conversations. I couldn’t even make it past episode two of Breaking Bad due to The Wire being utmost priority. When my friends discussed how Breaking Bad’s Walt had transformed into a dynamic character that garnered sympathy for his meth cooking plight, I mourned the death of drug dealers and murderers while becoming mesmerized by the games played within politics and governing. The Wire didn’t introduce me to inner city problems nor the stagnancy faced by black youths in underdeveloped urban areas. I had firsthand knowledge of this since childhood. Instead, The Wire gave faces and stories to victims of the current infrastructure. It unveiled the origins of many problems faced by those in the hood. The Wire pokes and prods at everything wrong with the system by just simply telling the stories of a group of cops and gang bangers in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Barksdale crew started it all.

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There’s no beginning, middle, or end to The Wire, just moments that creator David Simon decides to show viewers in sequential order. The Wire starts season one by introducing us to the Barksdale Gang, Baltimore’s most notorious drug dealers and distributors whose head men at the start of the season are nothing more than faintly whispered nobody’s to a group of Baltimore City homicide detectives. In the midst of a trial originating from a moment of hot-headed revenge by a young Barksdale member, the homicide team, led by Jimmy McNulty (a damn good policeman and alcoholic asshole), begin to put together the frayed, jagged pieces of the puzzle that is the Barksdale gang and their connection to high drug use and murder in the city. The homicide of one witness, initially a no one to the show and its characters, ignites the fiery momentum of the entire series. As The Wire’s story continues we follow it in-depth through the eyes of various characters: lawyers, policemen, drug dealers, drug users, and we even see the upper echelon of the city’s decision makers; mayors and councilman.

Not just characters, but people

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When I first watched Six Feet Under I felt a part of the Fischer family. I understood Ruth’s desperate attempts to make her family work, despite her children’s own individual unresolved family conflicts. I understood the distance between siblings Nate, Claire, and David and I felt their pain. But, the development of characters in The Wire makes me feel as though I genuinely know each person. I may not know all of their lineage or family history, but I know their heart, why they got into such a rough and tumble business, their simple pleasures, their neurosis, their hopes, goals and passions. The Wire involves viewers intimately with nearly every character of significance granting us a well-rounded allegiance to each person despite their “good” or “bad” qualities. It’s a rare novelty for a character in The Wire to be labeled simply as “bad.” Nearly every action taken by a “bad guy” within in the show is examined to a point of empathy, whether we learn a person’s motives are underlined in selfish gain or not, we are given reason and explanation for their decisions.

The Wire Understands the Complexities of the System.

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Aside from all the cops, and drug pushers, and kingpins, and politicians we come across the most admirable aspect, and my favorite constituent, of The Wire is its ability to expose viewers to “the system.” The Wire shows why lower class citizens, especially blacks in urban areas, struggle with cycles of violence, drugs, and incarceration. The Wire reveals all the strings running the system from the top-tier to the bottom pit. The Wire travels from the streets to the court houses to the schools, to the media to show how the system is a very real, still demeaning, aspect of American society designed to keep low-class citizens in dire desperate situations. Greedy politicians are responsible for limiting the budgets of school systems in order to take higher pays, forcing public school systems to tweak their curriculum to teach superficial, detrimental information to students with hopes they can pass tests which guarantees schools a higher budget.

The Wire helped remove the blinders from my eyes by showing the information that media and schools ignore. The socio-economic constructs created within our country are very real and these constructs keep the vast majority in areas struggling to survive underprivileged and dependent on aid. The Wire introduced me to a group of people who cared so passionately about fixing the broken systems in place that some were willing to ruin their own lives for justice. This strong sentiment emanating within the show is simply awe-inspiring. My life’s goal is to change the world. I want to break human being’s cycles of selfishness and greed to help usher us into a utopian society of understanding and patience. The problems of the world are complex, in fact complex is a gross understatement, but The Wire taught me how to scrutinize and discuss these problems in order to work forward with a solution, even if everyone is against you. The Wire taught me if I want change, I have to take my wits and gonads, and go out and fight for it. Rest assured, I will.

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