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.

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15 Comments on “If that’s all there is then there’s no point for me”

  1. Shoals Says:

    dukie is really unprecedented. he’s not tough at all, but his surivival skills are off the charts. while michael has dealt with adversity by being (becoming?) tough, this brings the streets calling for him in a way that they never would for dukie. you’d almost have to conclude that, whether manliness is a reaction to adversity or a quality that helps one get through it, it’s kind of a mixed blessing.

    does dukie care what others think? does he even have that luxury? michael, on the other hand, seems to at least want others to know that he’s no joke or pushover, even if that’s just the way he maintains stability for himself and his brother.

    bubbles might be the closest thing there is to dukie. . .if we’re certain that dukie’s destined for a life of creative floundering. personally, i’m impressed enough with the kid to think he might be headed for better.

    oh, and i vow to personally make sure that all comments are spoiler-free.

  2. Shoals Says:

    another thing: dukie’s backpack. totally effemeinate but does anyone ever clown him for it as such? what’s the point? and also, it’s probably symbolic of his lack of “toughness,” and how little that matters

    and yeah, i think those four are friends just because of history. i’m sure that in more innocent times they could all have gotten along. they’re young as hell, but the idea is that they’re growing up overnight in fits and starts. dukie being left out of the pigeon-chasing scheme was more about how now, even in childish things the divisions of the real world can come out, than it was his eternal exclusion. like how they all participated in zombie talk 2006, but randy’s inability to wrap his head around life and death in the hood made him take it way too seriously.

    no, “growing up in fits and starts” doesn’t make sense, but it’s what i meant here.

  3. pyrex chapman Says:

    let’s also remember how young these kids are. when you were 14 years old, there were probably kids you hung out with just because they lived on your block or were in your homeroom class. without mobility or extended social circles, you just sort of chill with whoever’s most convenient.

  4. Steve Lieber Says:

    First off, apologies if I’m telling you something you already know, but “Cutty from The Cut” is just another way of saying that Cutty jailed at Jessup. I don’t think it has anything to do with how he’s built.

    As for the boys, I’ve found myself thinking of them as expressions of the four elements. Michael is Earth, he’s grounded and solid and strong. Dukie is Air- a classic luftmensch. His main impact on others has been as a smell. When he wants to comfort the girl who used the razor, he blows air on her with a fan he repaired. In the first episode, he showed he knows about birds. Randy is water. He’s all about transporting goods and flowing around obstacles, constantly moving from one place to another. (And of course he came up with the idea to attack with water balloons.) Nay is fire, flashy and bright, but quickly burning through the financial and social capital he inherited. When he wants to look powerful in front of his mom, he takes a cigarette and lights up. His bluff in front of the enemy boys is extinguished when the balloon bursts, soaking him.

    I’ve no idea if the writers though of the characters this way, or if this is just an exercise in reading tea leaves, but it’s one more thing to ponder as we watch the story unfold.

  5. Marcus Wellby Says:

    Before junior high I had one group of friends since pretty much 1st grade. Once in junoir high our interests began to change — no longer bonded by the toys and games of childhood. By high school we all had a different group of friends. It happens, especialy as some are drawn to different directions in life (choice in music, smoking pot, drinking, sports pursuits, study, etc). In a way it is sad, but inevitable. I think we are seeing Randy, Nay, Dukie and Michael on the verge of that change.

  6. cc Says:

    it’s me again, not logged-in cause my password is at the office… steve, i know that it’s about him being in jail.. i just like how there’s an extra level of meaning buried in there, intended or not. i love your idea about the four elements, though. i never would have thought of that.

    yeah, it’s interesting to me to think about the different ways that boys and girls change and differentiate themselves growing up. i don’t want to be universalizing differences here or like, girls like dolls, boys like trucks! but i do think it’s interesting. shoals good call on dukie’s backpack. “survival skills” are a good way to read him as a male, he’s worthy of respect regardless of his effeminate qualities. and there’s something of course that’s very funny about namond playing at being macho, when he is obviously dominated by his mama. and even wee-bay tells nay to listen to de’londa — which is sort of a humorous insight on how even his masculinity, which is beyond question, is in dialogue with her (stereotypical and off the charts) demands.

  7. Shoals Says:

    not to get waayyyy too lit crit up in here, but namond’s ponytail and clunky grandmama looking gold earrings are kind of girly. and while dukie’s feminine signifier is foisted upon him by circumstance, nay’s chosen his. is defensive about keeping them, actually.

    this has something to do with what cc just said but i can’t go on in this vein. . .

  8. Simonsbitch Says:

    The boys are certainly captivating, and I like the elemental analysis too.

    From the opening ep, I’ve wanted to adopt Dukie. He is endurance and acceptance…a true little Buddha. Some suggest he’s got rage inside waiting to erupt and that might be true. But Prez and Crystal both offer “charity” and he accepts with grace. He reaches out to slasher girl when everyone else is focused on the victim. He endures being humiliated and made fun of.

    Randy is creative and entrepreneurial (anyone else wonder where all of his money is going? Is he a squirrel?) and absolutely scared to death of what? Growing up? Going back to the group home? Fear drives him most of all.

    Michael is the leader. Smart but sensitive too. I like how he keeps Naymond from bullying Dukie…he’s the realist with a stubborn streak. There’s been a lot of speculation about whether or not he’s been molested. There is no doubt in my mind he’s been victimized somehow and has vowed it won’t happen again. He’s the protector and the question is how, when and who will need protecting.

    Naymond is my least favorite because I just hate bullies. Hate them. He’s a spoiled rotten coward and so far, the only reason to feel much empathy is because he’s got a “ho-beast” as a mother (love that!). Oh, and he’s a reader, so he’s got that going for him. Other than that, I can’t think of a single redeeming quality, but then again, SimCo is probably setting me up so that I’ll feel really guilty about feeling this way by the end of the season. Which is pretty much the way I felt about Ziggy by S2’s end.

  9. christycash Says:

    Agree with SB on the prediction that by season’s end we’re going to all have felt bad about hating on Nay so much but right now he is pretty hateable. Shoals I’m going to go where I believe you feared to tread and say that the grandma earrings (ha) and ponytail are his desperate attempt to keep his individuality. we remember how Wee-Bay said that he would stand out with the long hair (this was from season 1 too, right? Oh no I’m thinking of The Corner where De’Andre has dreds). It’s like becoming a man is tied up in conforming to the group and adopting its attitudes. Duh. I guess that’s what becoming an “adult” is supposed to be like too.

  10. hoopinion Says:

    If there’s a Ziggy/Namond parallel, it extends to Nick Sobotka/Randy as characters who are ultimately more vulnerable because of their competence, conscience, and relatively reasonable hopes.

  11. christycash Says:

    yeah it’s definitely depressing that the most basic dreams — a decent job, a decent education, decent housing — are less attainable than anything.

  12. cmonks Says:

    Looks like ep. 44 isn’t going to make it to On Demand before Sunday. Depressing. Liked being ahead of the game, or at least liked thinking I was ahead of the game.

  13. hoopinion Says:

    For reasons I can’t fathom, The Wire isn’t on this Sunday at 10pm, so #44 will still arrive early on Monday the 23rd even though it will feel like it has arrived one week late.

  14. Arness Says:

    The city I live in is having a bit of a shake up in city government & when it all went down I immediately thought of The Wire and imaged how this would play out with those characters. The sad theing is the commisoner is obviously a scapegoat to mask the even bigger problem with the child welfare system.


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