If that’s all there is then there’s no point for me
As 44 isn’t up on On Demand yet, we’re taking it easy on the up-to-the-minute-analysis; besides, I’ve heard rumors of spoilers lurking in the comments on some of these posts, so I’m not taking my chances reading them. (People, I have the entire season and I am stringing it out watching each episode as they go up on On Demand, an act of self-control probably unparalleled in human history — or at least in my young life.)
First, and obviously, big thank you to Shoals and to David Simon for agreeing to be interviewed. That was awesome.
Second, opening up the vaults. It’s Tuesday, it’s getting darker earlier, it’s rainy, and presumably we’re not discussing new developments… so I thought we could reach back, back in our minds, all the way back. I’m taking you on a journey to Season 2. Season 2 which, as you will all recall, featured The Death of Work, the local, some dead prostitutes (big shout-out to the ladies of Season 2!) and one very memorable Greek who was not even Greek.
So let’s talk about Ziggy — because Ziggy, as has been mentioned here, has a resonance with Namond. Not like they’re parallels or anything — far from it. But they share a certain recklessness, a certain propensity to perhaps clad ducks in diamond collars.
Ziggy was a heartbreaking character, largely because the gap between who he was and who he wanted to be was so vast. More than anything he longed for acceptance from the older guys, he longed them to see him as a man — something that he could never be, because in that world, work confers masculinity and there is never enough work to go around. So Ziggy performed tricks to get attention, acting out, eventually sealing his own fate. Getting mixed up in the game is not, as Namond’s unease with his first package shows us, for boys. The game makes men out of boys, but only if there is a man in there to begin with. At least this is the narrative.
So Ziggy, in a way, failed in life — ie, died — because he failed at “being a man.” There are lots of ways to be a man on The Wire that don’t involve manual labor, but they all involve a certain toughness. We could debate endlessly what toughness means on The Wire — and I hope we do — but I’d like to start by saying it involves a certain not-caring of what others think. Ziggy, because he cares so deeply, is doomed from the start. McNulty, Bunny, String and Avon, Marlo — these are all clearly masculine figures who play by their own rules. The idea of toughness also makes Omar fascinating — his homosexuality is totally effaced, and in a sense, forgiven, by virtue of his toughness. (Also, of course, because he exists not only outside the law, but outside of reality).
Jumping back to this season, the idea of manliness is definitely being played out at the gym — Cutty’s a womanizer, he’s also cut (Cutty from the cut, with that great line about how if you take care of your body, it takes care of you). And certainly De’Londa is pushing Nay to live up to a certain ideal of masculinity personified by Wee-Bay — one that seems to involve a lot more cohering to authority and organization than the outlaw masculinity of an Omar or a McNulty, but one that is “redeemed” by its reliance on violence. There aren’t really wimps this season like Ziggy was — there are kids who are sweet and vulnerable, like Dukie, and Randy, in different ways. (I ask again, why are Randy, Nay, Dukie and Michael friends? I guess the only answer would be “history” but they seem like a very unlikely crew.) But we’re certainly seeing some growing pains as boys try to figure out how to be young men.