Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Seeing God in The Wire


Me? I like a good phenomenon. There's a famous place for breakfast in San Francisco where you have to wait for a minimum of an hour and a half on the streets of the TENDERLOIN just to get in. And you know what I said when I heard that? Where do I sign up? (Dottie's True Blue Cafe, by the way).

I just need to know what all the fuss is about and I'm not afraid of sitting through virtually anything to find out. Call me the cat. And that's how I came to watch my first episode of The Wire.

Many people are calling The Wire the best show that ever aired on television. In fact, it was Slate that said that and I love Slate so really WHAT COULD I DO? Plus, it's set in Baltimore and if you've ever read my bio carefully (and really, why would you?) it mentions that I got my MA in Creative Writing at Johns Hopkins...which is in Baltimore. I lived there nine shorts months and I have never fallen so hard for a city so fast. Bawl-more! May misses you!

And all I can say is...it really is the best show ever on television.

BUT WAIT before you put it in your queue, let's sit down right here for a moment and have us a little chat. I am not offended by bad language when used to make a point. The Wire is about the social structure of the city of Baltimore crumbling to the ground. Thus it focuses on drug dealers, cops, dock workers, newspapermen, politicians, and the homeless quite a lot. If you put a quarter in a jar every time a curse word is said on this show, you'll be Bill Gates.

There is also a lot of violence on the show. They don't go out of their way to show you torture scenes or anything but they are showing you life as it is really lived by the urban poor and well, in the language of the show, people get did. It's the game.

Now you're probably thinking, Why does May like this show? I could point to the writing, which is some of the best writing ever. The dialog on this show makes me want to break every pencil I have in half and toss my Mac iBook off the balcony. But that's not why I love it.

I love it because to me...the mission of the show is very holy. The urban poor, or really the poor in America, are nearly a forgotten group of people. I know I'm guilty of this myself. I love to send a chicken off to Ghana with Heifer International, but I forget that there are kids being raised in the slums of Baltimore by a brother who sells drugs to support them at the tender age of 12.

David Simon, the show's creator and primary writer, has said that he wants the show to be about the ways capitalism has devalued the individual. He sees his show as a love song to Baltimore and desperate plea to the world to change the ways that we classify the poor as "other" or "unnecessary."

I told a friend this week that I wanted to write a blog about how I see a lot of God in The Wire. She chuckled. But I was serious. Is there a holier pursuit that remembering the least of these?

--May

PS The show isn't really all that dark, I promise. There are moments of side-clutching hilarity. Plus it has a somewhat biblical way of telling stories. No character is all good or all bad. They're like King David. Good intentions, some good results...some Bathsheba mistakes along the way.

10 comments:

OK Chick said...

I've never heard of the show. What network airs The Wire? I might check it out sometime. Also, what night does it air?

Bryon Quertermous said...

I'm glad to see other people who aren't crime writers are starting to love this show. Many of the writers on the show describe it as a visual novel and I think that totally nails it.

May Vanderbilt said...

Oh right! I should have mentioned that. It airs on HBO, but it's in its fifth and final season now.

So I'd just rent it on Netflix.

It's funny, Bryon. As I was writing this I was like...I'll bet Bryon watches The Wire!

Bryon Quertermous said...

I have friends who write for The Wire. That's how cool I am. :) And I totally recommend watching it on DVD instead of a week at a time. I'll sometimes watch an antire season in one sitting and while it usually blows the day, I feel better for it.

serenity said...

I've never seen it, but this is a beautiful tribute to it. Finding God in unexpected places is highly under-rated. Is that the word? I mean to say that Christians just don't do it enough.

Adaora A. said...

May I think there is a belief that when you are Christian, you can't appreciate something that is there for a reason. The swearing isn't gratuitous it has a meaning. Same with the violence. It is like a book that might have a lot of er...violence and other things. It is telling the genuine story.

I still haven't watched this show. I've only got one day off in a week and it is today.

Sarah said...

This is so funny. I've never seen The Wire-- but I've been thoroughly enjoying reading the "conversation" about it on Slate over the last week or so.

I guess that probably means I should give the actual show a try!

LindaBudz said...

Excellent post.

Newcomers to the show, you definitely need to start watching from season one, episode one, or you'll be totally lost. The writers assume their viewers are intelligent beings and just roll right through the story. And yes, it is MUCH better to watch it all several episodes at a time on DVD than to see it one episode per week (torturous)!

Chris said...

A friend of mine and I decided to finally check it out when HBO was running a season a month on demand...and I think it is in the running for best drama on television I've ever seen; the only show that comes close in my opinion is Six Feet Under. The Wire is so real, so gripping, so well written...it makes me remember everything powerful and wonderful that can be done just using words on a piece of paper. If you've never seen it, do it a favor and start from the beginning.

Hi, I'm Dee said...

I love the Wire!! Thanks for your post. So sad this is it's last season.