Aside from, well, anyone who sat through the disappointing 5th season, it’s pretty hard to find a discouraging word written about HBO’s “The Wire”. With the release of all 5 seasons as a DVD box set, however, CNN’s John Blake, a West Baltimore native, offers a rare voice of dissent. “I love ‘The Wire’,” insists Blake. “The dialogue crackles, the characters are rich and the minute ways it captures how Baltimoreans move and talk is uncanny. But the ‘Complete’ story isn’t the whole story.”
The Wire’s” most unsettling scene for me took place in season four. It involved a murder — of a gentle teenager’s spirit. The character’s name is Dukie, and he brought back memories of some people I knew.
Dukie is lost. He has no family, his public school is paralyzed by violence and he’s not tough enough to make it on the streets. He has a gift for computers but doesn’t know what to do with his ability.
Dukie looks one day for help from “Cutty,” an ex-con who runs a boxing gym in their neighborhood. Cutty tells Dukie that “the world is bigger” than the violent neighborhood both live in.
“How do I get from here to the rest of the world?” Dukie asks Cutty.
“I wish I knew,” Cutty sighs, and walks away.
Why did Cutty give Dukie such a hopeless answer? Maybe it’s because some people who never lived in a neighborhood like “The Wire” confuse hopelessness for authenticity. Yeah, I could shock you with stories of violence, but it’s so easy to slip from revelation to titillation. I start off telling you a story about how tough my school was, and soon I’m shooting it out with five drug dealers who want to steal my homework.
But I never remember West Baltimore being so hopeless. A man like Cutty wouldn’t tell a young man that he had no way out — adults rallied around kids with potential.
I even checked with some childhood friends — one who is now an undercover police officer who literally works a “wire” for the Baltimore Police Department — and we all agreed that “The Wire’s” bleakness was exaggerated.
“They made it seem like we grew up in Bosnia,” my friend, another “Wire” fan, told me.
My community was filled with what Barack Obama calls the “quiet heroes.” (Obama reportedly is a big fan of “The Wire.”) There was my high school tennis coach. The dignified deacons in my church. The retired steelworker who watched Orioles baseball games on his porch next door. Relatives, teachers, even summer job programs (one gave me my first exposure to journalism) — all inspired me.
Yet those quiet heroes seem fated to fail in “The Wire.” The show implies that only a fantastic few ever escape the streets.