4 Nov

Something that I thought The Corner miniseries did well was the lack of reference to a world or viewpoint outside of the corner and West Baltimore. The series is about describing the corner and its ability to keep drawing people back in, as we saw happen to many of the characters, including DeAndre, Gary, and Fran. It attempts to give the audience an inside view, rather than an outsider’s view.

Watching The Corner, the audience hopes that the characters will turn their lives around and get out of this situation. However, as we noted in class, there is a sense of confined space; there is nowhere for them to go. Sections of the book that recount events and characters’ thoughts are in line with this. DeAndre, on his way to Boys Village, can barely imagine what it is like this far away from his home, so he assumes he must be going to “Klan country” (Simon & Burns 120). 

We see the characters’ hope for the future and aspiration to get out of the cycle and life of the corner, but we never get a glimpse of the outside world in the miniseries. There are flashbacks from when the neighborhood was like a different place, as in Gary’s colorful childhood scenes. However, there are no real shots of the world outside. The only instance of this is a scene in episode 3 where Miss Ella is walking a group of young kids through the neighborhood, and asks the dealers to stop advertising and selling while they pass by. Ella crosses the street with a line of children holding hands. So that she and all of the kids are in the shot as they cross the street, we actually get to see straight down the street. As far as I noticed, this was the only shot where you could literally see past the corner and potentially out of the neighborhood. But after a point, not too far away, the view is blocked by fog or haze. Even when you try to look past the corner, there’s nothing there.

The authors of the book, David Simon and Edward Burns, say that their goal is to make people understand the corner and people’s lives within that world, seemingly abandoned by the rest of society (60). Portions of the book are told from an outsider’s perspective, sometimes describing the history of the corner in relation to wider historical events, but often exhorting the reader to understand that there is more to these people’s lives than others might think. These asides serve to pull the reader out of the story and remind them of its base in reality; they keep reminding you that you are an outsider and don’t understand this world. 

I think that the miniseries is more effective in keeping the audience involved in the story. Although the interviews at the beginning and end of each episode break the flow, they are still focused inside the world of the corner. After the first interview with Gary, where other residents of the neighborhood are visibly wary of the camera, the rest of the interviewees seem relatively comfortable talking to the director. These interactions don’t feel like an outsider’s perspective of the whole situation, but instead give you a deeper understanding of one character’s narrow perspective. Unlike the author’s voice in the book, the interviews do not provide a view of the broader context of the corner. The miniseries feels like you’re getting a better understanding of people’s lives and the struggles they face. This allows viewers to get invested in the characters without being constantly reminded that they themselves are outsiders.

2 Responses to “Inside/Outside”

  1. katherinesnyder14 November 4, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    I completely agree with your analysis of how the producers of the miniseries were able to make it feel like you were in the corner and it was the only place that actually existed. It really made me feel immersed in the society, or, like, as you said, an insider to the corner and their neighborhood.

    I have to wonder, though, if this was more effective than the style of the book, which alternated engrossing scenes of narrative that made me feel like I was reading fiction rather than a real person’s life story and more journalistic facts and histories. While I think that it is important to identify with the people who have lives like the McCulloughs, it is also important for the audience to be reminded of their different perspectives on the situation. Because I do not think people living near corners like the one in The Corner will be reading a long book or watching an HBO miniseries about it, we can assume a few basic characteristics about the typical audience member. Alternating feelings of inclusiveness and distance might make the difference between the lives of the McCulloughs and the lives of the audience starker, making the message more poignant and resonant.

  2. hleskosky November 5, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    I completely agree as well that the miniseries does a better job of providing a deeper understanding of the characters and their struggles. The miniseries really feels like it’s about the characters, while the book (to me) felt more like it was about how the authors felt about things–even though they never wrote how they were feeling, I still sensed a level of disconnect from characters to text. In the miniseries however, it was very much about the characters and how they felt and I think the interview style had a lot to do with that coming across, like you said. Even though we could hear the voice of the director asking the questions, it served merely as a prompt for the characters to express how they were feeling or to elaborate on an event or something, which made them very three-dimensional and not just versions of the characters the authors wanted us to experience.

    I also agree with Katherine that the alternating feelings of inclusiveness and distance make the difference between characters and audience “starker”, but I think this has more to do with the fact that the miniseries is visual. In this day and age, when most people have grown up watching television, I think people respond to visuals more than non-visuals of reading. It’s one thing to read an elaborate, detailed description of “the corner” (which the authors did a good job of–no denying that), but it’s completely different to see an actual corner–especially because they actually filmed on real corners. This aspect grounds the environment, characters, and situations in reality more than any text could do, and thus does a better job of immersing the audience in the world. At least in my opinion.

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