The Wire was the critically acclaimed HBO series that told the story of the Baltimore drug trade from a variety of perspectives (cops, dealers, importers, longshoremen, kids, and crooked journalists). Unfortunately, praise for The Wire all too often emanates from leftist white hipsters who’ve probably never actually seen a single episode. But the truth is, The Wire really was exceptional TV.
The reason The Walking Dead will never be remembered as “great” (popular, sure…but so was that Paris Hilton reality show a decade ago) is that its revolving-door showrunners insist on continuously repeating the same script. The heroes stumble upon a megalomaniacal postapocalyptic human with a cultlike band of violent followers. And again, and again, and again. Different names, same plot. But on The Wire, because that show was actually crafted with care and intelligence, when Baltimore drug lord Stringer Bell was killed and his partner imprisoned, the writers saw to it that the next drug kingpin would be cut from a different cloth. Bell was an organizer and an orator, a larger-than-life character with grand schemes. Replacing him was Marlo Stanfield. Marlo knew nothing of oratory. He was a dead-eyed, cold-blooded killer with no ambitions beyond ruling his hood. He wasn’t trying to bring anyone together or “civilize” the drug business. In fact, as one particular street dealer pointed out, Marlo loved “killing niggers just cuz he can, not because of business, not for profit; just cuz he can.”
Idris Elba became a star thanks to his performance as Bell, but I think Jamie Hector’s understated, coldly inhuman Marlo was an even better characterization.
In season 4, Marlo loses a good deal of money at an all-night card game. Pissed off, he wanders into a convenience store in the early-morning hours, as he waits for his lieutenant to come pick him up. As the Asian clerk isn’t looking, he swipes some candy, in plain view of the store’s paunchy, middle-aged black security guard. Marlo had more than enough money to pay for that candy, but he stole it “just cuz he can.” The guard follows Marlo outside and lectures him about disrespect and what it means to be a hardworking family man with a shitty job who has to put up with neighborhood thugs mocking him to his face.
With an iciness that’s absolutely bone-chilling, Marlo stares the guard straight in the eyes and says, “You want it to be one way. But it’s the other way.”
The security guard hates his reality. He hates his job, his neighborhood, and the “rules” of the street that reward the violent and conscienceless and punish those who obey the law. He wants reality to be one way, but in fact it’s the other way.
Marlo proceeds to get into a pricey SUV chauffeured by his right-hand man, and coolly drives off (days later, the guard turns up dead).
“You want it to be one way. But it’s the other way.” It’s a great line, and I find myself recalling it every time the left opens another front in its war against normal. Because at its core, that’s leftism. Since the days in which communists proclaimed the creation of the “New Soviet Man”—an engineered human devoid of self-interest and caring only to serve the state (oddly, the “New Soviet Man” ceased to exist the minute belief in it was no longer enforced at gunpoint)—the left has been all about trying to reinvent normal.
Last week, left-wing West Wing television hack Aaron Sorkin, who’s as likely to ever create a show as timeless as The Wire as a retarded lemur with a typewriter is likely to write Hamlet, blasphemed [ … ]