lake trout vs squirrel brains
It’s not rash to say that dimensions of crime, race, class, cops and municipal governance, as depicted on the show’s fictional Baltimore, are far from representative of America as a whole. As Mr. Simon offered in our comments and on Slate , Baltimore’s populations are at this point, fairly black and white- the impact of Spanish-speaking populations is still yet to be determined. Language is one of the most obvious aspects of urban geography and a key example. If The Wire was set in San Diego, Houston, Phoenix or Orlando- any sun belt city, it’d be in 12 languages and on every night.
By virtue of its Baltimore setting, the urban blight on The Wire looks like what we think it should look like, because Baltimore looks like what we think a city should look like. West Baltimore is an intended urban area- whereas Pleasant Grove, Acres Homes, and North Little Rock are urban by happenstance. Corners, Corbusier towers and bombed out 19th century rowhouses make more sense as urban spaces than strip malls full of Money Trees and Dollar Generals, shotgun houses or skuzzy sprawling apartment complexes. If there’s any hard driven lesson from the show, especially in this past season, it’s to think about the way large scale operations carry out in everyday life, and by extension, to think about what they look like.
But the point of this post is that you won’t have to wonder about what another city’s Wire would be like or look like, because recommended viewing in post-season reeling this week is the mindblowing HBO doc of yore, Gang Wars: Bangin in Little Rock. In a fit of On-Demand scourging a few months back, I happened upon Back in the Hood, the 2004 follow up, which while less substantial and highly specific, is might be necessary to acquaint the unfamiliar with the world of Arkansas in 1992. Observers of The Wire point to authentic depictions of Baltimore’s linguistic idiom as a stumbling block, but seriously dudes, try Arkansas as a starting point instead of the recognizable quirks of the eastern seaboard.
Gang Wars runs under 60 minutes, and its subjects make The Wire’s kids look utterly wholesome by comparison. (Sure, gang dynamics are absent from The Wire, gangs are about more than drugs, et cetera.) Little Rock’s black Bloods and Crips are depressing and inscrutable- to say the least, and their rural-urban environment makes them seem far more hopeless. At the center of much of the narrative is the Little Rock city coroner Steve Nawojczyk, who takes up anti-gang campaigning in either spare time or official capacity. By far the most well intentioned of all of the city officials, Steve makes a poster of drive-by victims’ morgue shots, and takes it around to neighborhoods while bearing pizza and fried chicken. (For humor or to draw in white audience members, the filmmakers do diverge and spend a fair amount of time chronicling a coed, black-white Folk Nation chapter, who chant the lyrics to The Chronic, tote hunting weapons and operate on petty thefts, and may very well be the type of Arkansas youth who pick off squirrels when they get the munchies.) Gang Wars is, bizarre, fairly heartbreaking, and accurately captures the local hysteria that surrounds a sudden crime epidemic.