Friday, October 16, 2009

The Wire

What does a retired university professor do with his time? He certainly spends a lot of time on the Internet reading the newspapers and his favorite blogs. He answers the telephone and fends off people who want to sell him insurance, double glazing, new kitchens and magazine subscriptions. He goes supermarket shopping with his wife. He has a break for coffee mid-morning and a break for tea mid-afternoon. He does at least 6 crosswords a day with his wife. He tries to write something on his blog. He listens to some music - keen on adagios at the moment. He puzzles over Bayesian statistics. He sporadically polishes brass doorhandles and fits new toilet seats. He edits his journal. He reads. Currently, in various degrees of the partially read are Planet Narnia, Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals, Keller's The Reason for God, My Grammar and I, The Saga of the Sydney Opera house, CS Lewis's The Discarded Image, David Wilkerson's Man Have I Got problems, FF Bruce's Men and Movements in the Primitive Church, Alec Moyter's Look to the Rock and Assist Me to Proclaim, the Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley.

And he watches television. My purpose in this blog is to review The Wire.

Claimed by some to be the best show on television for a decade or more, most Christians would avoid this show like the plague. The language is revolting and there are lurid sex scenes that would be a temptation for many. So this series comes with a health warning.

That said, I have watched all five seasons with the subtitles turned on, mainly because the African-American patois was unintelligible to me, but also because you need to know what is being said to follow the plot.

On the other hand this work of fiction is extremely moral. It teaches us that the heart of man is desperately wicked. Corruption permeates every element of society. It begins by showing how drugs have wormed their way into the fabric of society, so much that for portions of the community drugs represent the basic way of making a living. The drug culture is steeped in crime with murders and beatings being the commonplace consequence of imagined slight. The cops have the closest contact with the drug world, and guess what the cops are corrupt, indeed all branches of law enforcement: judges, lawyers, prosecutors, prison staff are all corrupt. The ordinary working man in the docks is corrupt; he also drinks too much. The church is corrupt. The schools are corrupt, the politicians are corrupt, the newspapers are corrupt.

There are some people who honestly want to make a difference. We see a couple of policemen who have been sidelined because they were incorruptible. We see a politician who really cares about his community. We see a police lieutenant who wants to police the city correctly, we see a newspaper man who not only understands the rudiments of grammar but also believes in the truth. But what happens is you either play the game or you die (or at very least are demoted). An ex-killer starts a boxing gym to attract young blacks away from drugs. He is kneecapped for his trouble. A teacher wants to befriend his pupils in order to teach them the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. He is bullied into teaching to the test, supplying them with model questions and answers that will closely resemble the test. A honest editor wishes to expose a reporter who is fabricating stories; he is demoted. A senior policeman cuts crime by isolating the drug trade to a deserted area and turning a blind eye to drug supply to addicts. It allows social workers to get into help the addicts. The politicians find out and he is demoted, losing pension. Two honest cops game the system to get funds they have been denied to catch multiple murders. Politicians and senior policemen, themselves up to their elbows in muck discipline the cops and then take personal credit for the success. The DA cuts a crooked deal with a crooked defence lawyer to allow the prosecution of murderers to go ahead.

We are left with a straight policeman who is already compromised by youthful indiscretion and by an adulterous affair resigning from the force rather than join in the morass of decay.

The acting and production values are superb, but how people need a savior!

1 comment:

Randy Shannon said...

Dr Hamblin, I have The Wire qued up on my net flix...after I finish Rescue Me- my wife calls it a man's soap opera, I should start that series.

I understand the need to use subtitles. I occasionally do so with british films that use heavy accents.

God Bless