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.