Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Straying a Bit Off Topic

For some time I've been contemplating starting a blog about the "100 most profound lines of The Wire," or something to that effect. And if you know me at all beyond the words on this blog, you likely already know that I consider The Wire to be one of the greatest pieces of artwork (across any genre) of our time. As one Washington Post writer stated (paraphrasing), "screw an emmy, it should receive the Nobel prize for literature." Not terribly surprising because the creators (a police beat writer from the B'more Sun and a retired city cop turned public school teacher) employed several novelists on the writing staff (Pelecanos, Price, Lehane).

Today, I received an email from a friend who is rewatching the 5 seasons exclaimed, "why did so and so character have to be killed off." You likely know who I am talking about if you've watched the series. However, he added another comment about Season 3's Hamsterdam, the legalized drug zone, that I want to comment on and bring 'round to how it relates to urban form/evolution:
Hamsterdam is great because like you said, bad things do happen in cities. If you're Catholic, you'd say we're all sinners. We're people. We do bad things. Bad things happen in nice parts of town perhaps just as much as they do in rougher parts, but usually out of sight, out of mind. A high ranking city official once told me about FBI maps that showed the highest crime areas in Dallas on a per $ per capita basis. The deepest, darkest, reddest, roughest area was actually in and around the Park Cities. Best hold your wallet crossing Hillcrest. Yes, white collar crime was included.

Hamsterdam quarantined the bad which was infecting entire areas of the city, which otherwise were home to many good people who had to dodge bullets just to live. In urban terms, it is really no different than some other undesirable use, like a lead smelter, you move it away from all the neighborhoods. You're just being honest in this case about drugs. The war is a lost cause (which is why they make parallels to war in iraq in season 3) and at this point is little more than welfare for those involved. OMG we'd lose jobs! Be honest it is lost, be honest with human nature and inevitability of drug use, and address it appropriately.

As The Wire showed, it was no panacea. The Hamsterdams became truly awful places, but they were localized. They could be policed and health officials could focus efforts as well.

When spread throughout the city, the decay and blight robbed citizens of the only wealth they might have, in the property they pass along through the family, and perhaps on a deeper level, the pursuit of happiness, which perhaps I'm mistaken, but could have sworn was guaranteed in the constitution. The areas then get either condemned or bought by redevelopers or slum lords and the downward cycle continues, or is just moved elsewhere in the Robert Moses manner of treating blight. Raze it, thereby further destroying whatever complex social fabric had previously existed.
As for the prior comment/rhetorical question, spoilers herein:
c'mon. you know the wire. if you like a character too much, he's bound to be killed. It wouldn't be much of a Greek Tragedy otherwise. Even McNulty was effectively "killed" by taking away the only thing he loved doing (thus "saving" him in the religious sense). Even underscoring the point by laying him out on the table.

I just rewatched it with Amanda and picked up something new. They were quite obvious in seasons 4 and 5 about emphasizing the cyclical nature and that the kids were each destined to be one of the adult characters. obviously, michael as omar. dookie as bubbles. Randy as stringer, the business head who gets lost in the system. I never really caught who Namond was going to become.

Then it hit me. Clay effing Davis. Yeah, Namond "made it out" but that doesn't mean everything was all good. He went into debate club. Clay, politician. In season 4, both used the line "I'll take any em-effers money if he givin it away." Namond becomes as big of a problem, if not bigger than any of the other kids... just like the pain in the A that he is at the start of his role.

Us coming to like that Eddie Haskell act of Namond was just a way of the show flipping it on us while we condemn Clay Davis. "How could anybody like that guy?" "What a scumbag!" Well, we fell for it and didn't even realize it. Just turn on the charm. Namond's just getting started taking em effers money.