Depiction of America

5 Nov


After reading both the Rose and Brundson readings, it seemed that the intent of The Wire‘s creators depended somewhat on who their viewers would be in their minds. The “realms of law and lawlessness” that they wanted to reflect becomes complicated when David Simon sees how British audiences receive his series, and the potential assumptions or judgments made of the US because of it. If Simon feels conflicted about overseas viewers reading “the Baltimore of The Wire as a metaphor for the USA,” does he assume that contrastingly, all American viewers do have a good understanding of the reality of Baltimore’s problems? Would a similar conflict result if American viewers from non-urban locales viewed The Wire as a metaphor for the plights of all urban cities?

Curious to learn more about Simon’s take on this, I read the rest of his article in The Guardian in which he responds to British commentary on the series. He goes on to defend that not all of Baltimore is like what is depicted in The Wire, and that “as with Fitzgerald, we were selling story only” (Simon, The Guardian, 2008). Of all the stories that could be told about America, they chose to focus on this “other part of town, the forgotten place, the one they don’t tell many stories about”. Because this is a prime-time television series, I agree that The Wire certainly has no journalistic duty to depict all aspects of urban life in America, both the good and bad. Perhaps that is complicated when taking into account Simon’s journalistic background. But when and if international audiences begin to take one story as representative or even authentic (to piggy-back on an earlier post) of a larger whole, is there some patriotic duty to explain oneself?

Link for The Guardian article for those interested:

One Response to “Depiction of America”

  1. jordanlarsson November 11, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    This is an interesting point to bring up, and one that complicates my interpretation of Simon’s intentions. Because Simon’s background is in journalism, I tend to assume that he abides by a journalistic code of ethics in crafting The Wire’s storyline. However, as you point out, truth must be somewhat elided in the creation of a popular, prime-time television show. Simon describes The Wire as “dissent of a kind,” and goes on to explain that The Wire focused on certain aspects of Baltimore while excluding others. What would a television show with journalistic integrity look like? Is there anything we can draw upon as a basis for comparison, or is the dramatic form necessarily incompatible with journalistic depictions?

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