Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Wire's Modern Babylon.

Recently, in a period of darkness, I retired to my cave and watched a few series of different programs… I like to call it "research", but lets face it, really I am covering up the severe depression and a self induced case of agoraphobia I encounter occasionally. "Outside" with the "bright light" is just not a viable option in times like these.

On this occasion I had the delightfulness of being introduced to The Wire (again - but this time the full series), I seem to have arrived unfashionably late to the party though. Watching this masterpiece not only caused me to think about the state of things i.e America in its microcosm, and by extension - the world in macro form, but I was also incredibly inspired by and could appreciate the great amount of craftsmanship that went into making such a program as this. Probably not inspired enough to get off my fat ass and do something entirely productive just quite yet though.

I watched it like a fucking junky: greedy, obsessively, with little self restraint, which seemed fitting enough considering the content, devouring 60 odd hours of television within about four days all up. It was such a chronic addiction that 20 consecutive hours of TV staring in one day brought on a self inflicted and well deserved migraine, most probably from eyestrain. Like any crack ho, I was undeterred though.

It totally inspired me cerebrally, even though for the week after I had the weirdest and most violent dreams. Woven tales of killing people, being in gangs, blood shed, and detective stories. These slumber narratives were engagingly descriptive and riveting to be in, but relatively disturbing too.

A few days after the final episode, I woke up having some kind of epiphany… as watching this program stimulates it's audience to THINK with their BRAINS (alien concept I know). It felt like I was having an epiphany, but really, I don't think I am smart enough to epiphanise about anything anymore - television killed that part of my brain which imagines stuff, the internet killed my memory, and I don't do drugs anymore so the pituitary gland isn't giving me any Mandalbrot fractals - shit out of luck there too.

In waking, I ruminated about what David Simon was trying to achieve, and in which I think he did spectacularly. His back ground in investigative journalism ushered him into the world of creating, producing, and writing The Wire - a serialized novel format created into a television program, which he had total creative control over. Whose characters are spectacular in embracing their human frailties, the dialogue they speak savvy, colloquial, poetic and true. The actors playing them... totally believable, you embrace and love them whole heartedly, or are absolutely horrified by them, and relish in the hatred they incite, either way they are all real.

It reminded me of something I studied in University, in my 'Sex and Scandal' unit for history so many years ago (the salacious shit are the only details I can remember from any courses I studied). I decided The Wire drew parallels to what W.T. Stead did in the late 1800's with his Newspaper - The Pall Mall Gazette, and the serialized articles he wrote: 'The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon'. Also a first for its time.

Both set about to illustrate the human condition in their day and age, although 130 odd years apart (you do the math, I am way too lazy).

Reflectively speaking, David Simon was not trying to be salacious in the detail of his program even though the content seems that way. Really, he was just trying to recreate the realities of the declining, modern, shitty American city - which could have been any American city, in this case Baltimore (such a shockingly different Baltimore compared to John Waters' overtly camp, musical, transvestite Baltimore with Divine, Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, or Ricky Lake before she thinned out).

It was argued that W.T Stead was in it for the sensationalism, as sensationalism, scandalous detail, and sex, well, it sold papers (not much has changed, but he did pioneer the technique). Whilst investigating the selling and devirginising of underage girls, he too opened up the eyes of people in Victorian times about how totally degenerative Victorian society was. The 'Tribute of Modern Babylon' was an impetus for changing the laws at the time, i.e. the consensual age of sex being raised to 15 (or something) instead of the age of 9 or 11, or whatever it was… (again, you can google for the correct age, fuck me if I am going through all my boxed up uni readings to cite something properly… yes I'm a fat lazy cow - without the fat)

What was amazing - or even more so appalling about the tenets of thought in Victorian times was: fucking a virgin would cure syphilis. Hence the large amount of numbers of pubescent and pre pubescent children in hospitals dying of an incurable disease, given to them by filthy, diseased, middle and upper class men, and being sold off to these fuckers by pandering old wenches for trifling amounts of money. But I digress, this paragraph really is just a side note, as the topic always astounded me. I think some people still believe and practice this same shit in Africa today. But now, instead of syphilis, they spread aids.

One of the many things that I love about The Wire is: at this moment in time, after all it's critical acclaim, yet small audience numbers when originally aired, it's starting to be taught in university courses across the United States - ironically Ivy League universities. Courses highlighting the social and cultural decline of America (a shit hole which they are so patriotically proud of), and courses which are screaming about the poverty and senseless violence which prevails throughout that 'civilised' country, and which will continue to prevail until something drasticly changes.

People are finally discovering the wonderment that is The Wire, and because of this, hopefully it will change the average TV viewing experience for mediocre chumps in the decades to come, as was David Simon's grand design. Fuck me, hopefully people will start reflexively thinking about issues when presented with decent product, instead of the gamut of reality shit which pours out of the bottomless pit of cheap television hell.

David Simon is still alive, and creating another series for HBO set in New Orleans, revolving around Jazz musicians in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, it's called Treme, I eagerly await its arrival (like a true TV junky).

W.T. Stead was one of the poor bastards that died on the Titanic's maiden voyage, because they didn't supply enough life boats, nor filled them properly when the 'unsinkable' boat sank.

If you are autodidactic and want to self educate… follow the links.

I would just like to point out, this is neither a finely nuanced, well structured, nor aptly thought out blog. I always came up with the best lines when far away from the computer, on returning to write it, I could never remember any of the "clever" things I thought... Meh. I did want it to be much more smartly, but fuck it.

We know it's kind of fucked when there are more universities in china, than there are university graduates in America. I think this is one of David Simon's points... there is little redemption or hope for a country which revels in its own Hubris.

This piece of technological shit hasn't embedded properly. Click on
it to watch the wide screen version on youtube. It's worth it.