The Wire: The Musical!’ Takes Aim At Pop Culture Reductionism

By Arturo R. García

So a little while back, this happened:

Oh yeah, watching Michael K. Williams as Omar Little smile and dance his way through a jazzed-up version of “The Farmer In The Dell” was definitely designed as a cringe-worthy moment–and that’s why it’s the perfect response to something like this becoming part of the legacy of The Wire:

Courtesy: of Redbubble.com

Yes, if you have $25.56 to spare, you can sport just one of many Wire-inspired shirts, celebrating Omar as “a badass” instead of a cautionary tale. Of course, hopefully, you remembered to fill out your bracket determining who was the show’s coolest character. (Omar was the people’s choice, if you were wondering.)

The rise of this kind of selective fandom years after the show landed the show’s creator, David Simon, in some controversy, leading him to start his own blog:

Yes, I do get that if you tell a story, people will acquire it on their own terms. Yes, I do get that people value what they value and they’re no less entitled than the people who tell the story. And yes, I do know that some things of lesser import present the opportunity for greater humor. But when asked a question about the belated interest in “The Wire,” and about what that interest means to us, are the people who worked on the tale for eight years entitled to our own truths? Or will everyone have hurt feelings if we say, no, sorry, whether Omar is the coolest ever isn’t the salient debate for which we labored.

Because I said that much, or I tried to. But for want of a pronoun, the New York Times seemed to think that I was critiquing ordinary viewers who got there late to The Wire, or for failing to embrace the show on my terms. Ouch. What I intended to criticize specifically was a media culture that, when the chips are down, values what it does and little more. And yes, I did want to bite that hand, whether it feeds or not.

Unfortunately, it’s probably too late to reason with this cult of personality; last month, somebody at CNN(!) delivered maybe the ultimate insult, pronouncing the show “geeky.”

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

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  • Anonymous

    A lot of this trivial objectification of The Wire and its characters is by hipster doofuses (doofi?) who have probably never actually watched the show.  And if they did watch it, it’s a good bet that they didn’t understand it.  

  • BkReader

    @90fc102137e8978ab1894faf41309d97:disqus : True, but it’s stil no excuse for the current crop of viewers kitchsifying  a show that was written as serious social commentary. To pull from Simon’s post:

     Folks slathering that silly shit on the cake weren’t there when the show was struggling to survive, and now, four years later, they’re busy hacking the thing into pop-culture nuggets — which would be cool if anywhere in there an actual idea got discussed or argued or considered.
    This ever-expanding drug war and what it’s doing to our society?  Boring.  The declining American commitment to public education and equality of opportunity?  Why talk about that when we can measure Namond against Dookie in the West Baltimore bracket?   The notion that an America that uses quarterly profits as its only metric is no longer a utilitarian experiment, that free market capitalism, disconnected from a social compact, has made our country coarse and unjust?  Jesus, man, you’re sucking the air out of the room.To be clear:  I don’t think the Wire has all the right answers.  It may not even ask the right questions.  It is certainly not some flawless piece of narrative, and as many good arguments about real stuff can be made criticizing the drama as praising it.  But yes, the people who made the Wire did so to stir actual shit.  We thought some prolonged arguments about what kind of country we’ve built might be a good thing, and if such arguments and discussions ever happen, we will feel more vindicated in purpose than if someone makes an argument for why The Wire is the best show in years.  (“Buffy,” by the way, was the correct answer to that particular bracketfest.)

  • dersk

    Oh, man, that headline worried me – I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a musical of The Wire.

  • Eva

    Someone needs to tell Mr. Simon that one reason so many got to “The Wire” late was because they couldn’t afford HBO and waited to watch the entire series on Netflix.  I watched the show live as it aired on HBO but many of my friends didn’t because they were in school or working minimum wage jobs and couldn’t afford cable.

    • Kate

      I don’t think that is what he is talking about though. I think he’s trying to allude to the latent cult of personality that has developed in regards to the show that has kind of trivialized the show’s message. In a way I think he’s criticizing this whole white hipster fratboy coolness that has become associated with being fans of The Wire.