Archive for month: September, 2008

Two Americas: A primer for Europeans

05 Sep
September 5, 2008

On the heels of The Wire becoming a hot ticket on British television, The Guardian asked me for a curtain-raiser on season five — the media season — with a Baltimore dateline in their Sunday edition.  By this point, it had become clear that The Wire was something of a phenomenon over there; American dystopia plays better the farther one travels from America, apparently.  And too, it had become clear that many viewers in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe were content to believe that The Wire was representative of the urban U.S. in its entirety.  Moreover, some of them were expressing a good bit of schadenfreude in this.

So in The Guardian, I tried to walk the line between affirming what I thought was truthful in The Wire and making clear the geographic limitations of the drama.  Not sure it worked at all, or that anyone took the point.  But in my mind, at least, it boiled down to an interior stance: We can say this shit about ourselves.  And at times, we will.  But fuck you if you’re thinking the worst of us and enjoying it a little too much.



Reprinted with permission.

BALTIMORE, Md. —- it’s been an ordinary week in Maryland’s largest city. The August heat broke and one can nearly sleep with a window open; the Orioles are again down in the cellar in the American League East; the city murder rate is a bit behind last year’s blood-letting, and if it holds into the fall, politicians and police commanders will compete to claim credit.

The stories in the Baltimore Sun remain fixed on the surface, each of them premised on the givens: schools will open next week and provide more or less the same inferior education as previous years; Johns Hopkins is building its biotech park expansion where the East Baltimore ghetto used to be and the ghetto is migrating due east and north-east; the biotech park will be great for white folk with college degrees, for those with union cards, the factories are still closed and the port is still losing cargo to Norfolk; a shooting here, a cutting there …

All in all, an unremarkable summer.

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