The Wire is often called realistic in its portrayal of the police and of the human side of the characters. After watching the first season, though, I have to wonder whether or not the show portrays women in a realistic, well-rounded way, or if it falls into the trap of stereotypes, like so many shows before it. There are three main reoccurring female characters: Greggs, Rhonda, and Shardene.
We talked briefly in class about Greggs and her sexuality. Kima is one of the best cops in the unit, and she is not afraid to become physically involved with suspects or the people on the street. This is very refreshing, especially in a genre not especially known for strong female police officers. At times, though, it feels as if her toughness is overdone, like David Simon was trying too hard. Rather than being a part of her characterization, it makes up most of it. Another large part of her characterization is her sexuality and relationship with another woman. I won’t talk too much about this, because Evan wrote most of a blog post about it, but, unlike the other straight characters’ sexualities, hers is not just known or acknowledged, but is the focus of many beats throughout the season. One of the more compelling and interesting sides to Kima, her pursuit of education while working full time, is unfortunately not discussed or fleshed out in this season, in my opinion.
Rhonda is a difficult character to analyze in this way. On the one hand, she is a highly educated professional who is successful in her career. On the other, though, her non-career interactions are defined by her relationship with McNulty, and this relationship even seeps into her career in many scenes. This may just be a result of her not being a main character. I do think it is interesting though, that Simon merged two minor characters (‘the other woman’ and ‘the legal liaison’) into one character. By doing this, Simon ensures that the viewers will have difficulty watching her without her relationship with McNulty in the back of their heads, thereby removing a lot of her independence as a character.
Shardene might be my favorite female character on the show. Her relationship with D’Angelo is interesting, but she remains independent in it, and she walks away without much hesitation. She lets him in, but is not defined by him. I was also drawn to her struggles with her profession and the people it attracted. She does not seem to feel regret about her career choice, but she also acknowledges that she will eventually need a different job, because she “can’t be pretty forever.” She seems to have more sides than the other female characters.
I’m conflicted about whether these women are as realistic as the rest of the show or not, and I wonder what other people have to say.