Women and The Wire

Urmee Khan has a terminally silly post this morning at the Guardian‘s Comment Is Free site, arguing that only middle-aged white guys like HBO’s brilliant show, The Wire.  Her chief objection to the show is its treatment of women:

It is misogynistic. All the main characters are men, apart from one woman. It is a world of men, in which many of the women are portrayed as subservient, lap-dancing gangsters’ molls.

This isn’t really true (there are several women who’d count as main characters) as a description of facts on the ground, and it’s just insipid as cultural commentary, inasmuch as it confuses a representation of misogyny with its endorsement.  The show signals pretty clearly indicts even its most sympathetic characters for their attitudes toward women.

She’s not much better on race:

The white characters in The Wire inhabit – usually – a sort of post-race world, where friendships and enmities with black men are denuded of racial tension. There are questions about how realistic this is, but for the purposes of the show, race in The Wire is a background hum rather than a dominating theme. When, in season three, a white detective kills a black colleague, under the mistaken belief he’s a criminal, the “racial element” (as it’s referred to) of the resulting controversy is shown as something unreasonable.

This isn’t an especially reasonable reading of season 3, which includes in it a ludicrous white cop who insists on singling out black cops as character witnesses for the shooter.  It also glosses over racial tensions depicted in the first two seasons.

But my main reason for writing this post is just anecdotal: As far as I can tell, women love The Wire.  That’s how it came into our home, through word-of-mouth from West Hartford moms.  (Think Little Children, and you’re not far off.)  I’d heard of the show for a couple of years, but never queued it on Netflix because I figured A. wouldn’t be interested.  But then Every Single WH Mom she hangs out with started watching it obsessively, plowing through those first 3 seasons on DVD over and over again, and talking about it nonstop at playdates.  So, we started watching, and got hooked.

Frankly, the first scene of the first episode caught us: It’s the greatest opener to any television show.  “This is America–everybody gets to play.”

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