On the occasion of airing The Wire’s last episode
A last thank you to those HBO subscribers who took the time and care to accompany us on this journey. The Wire arrived six years ago to little fanfare and modest expectation. It demanded from viewers a delicate, patient consideration and a ridiculous degree of attention to detail.
It wasn’t for everyone. We proved that rather quickly.
But episode to episode, you began to understand that we were committed to creating something careful and ornate, something that might resonate. You took Lester Freamon at his word: That we were building something here and all the pieces matter.
When we took a chainsaw to the first season, choosing to begin the second-story arc with an entirely different theme and different characters, you followed us to the port and our elegy for America’s working class. When we shifted again, taking up the political culture of our mythical city in season three, you remained loyal. And when we ended the Barksdale arc and began an exploration of public education, you were, by that time, we hope, elated to understand that whatever else might happen, The Wire would not waste your time telling the same story twice.
This year, our drama asked its last thematic question: Why, if there is any truth to anything presented in The Wire over the last four seasons, does that truth go unaddressed by our political culture, by most of our mass media, and by our society in general?
We’ve given our answer:
We are a culture without the will to seriously examine our own problems. We eschew that which is complex, contradictory or confusing. As a culture, we seek simple solutions. We enjoy being provoked and titillated, but resist the rigorous, painstaking examination of issues that might, in the end, bring us to the point of recognizing our problems, which is the essential first step to solving any of them.
The Wire is fiction. Many of the events depicted over the last five seasons did not, to our knowledge, happen. Fewer happened in the exact manner described. Fiction is fiction, and it should in no way be confused with journalism.
But it is also fair to note that the problems themselves — politicians cooking crime stats for higher office, school administrators teaching test questions to vindicate No Child Left Behind, sensitive prosecutions and investigations being undercut for political motives, brutal drug wars fought amid a police department’s ignorance of and indifference to the forces involved — were indeed problems in the recent history of the actual Baltimore, Maryland.
Few of these matters received the serious attention — or, in some cases — any attention from the media. These problems exist in plain sight, ready to be addressed by anyone seriously committed to doing so. For those of us writing The Wire, a television drama, story research involved dragging the right police lieutenants or school teachers, prosecutors and political functionaries to neighborhood diners and bars and taking story notes down on cocktail napkins and paper placemats. To be more precise with their tales? To record it and relay it in a manner that can stand as non-fiction truthtelling? Yes, that’s harder to do. But there was a time when journalism regarded that kind of coverage as its highest mission. The true stories that The Wire traded in are out there, waiting for anyone willing to take the time. And it is, of course, vaguely disturbing to us that our unlikely little television drama is making arguments that were once the prerogative of more serious mediums.
We tried to be entertaining, but in no way did we want to be mistaken for entertainment. We tried to provoke, to critique and debate and rant a bit. We wanted an argument. We think a few good arguments are needed still, that there is much more to be said and it is entirely likely that there are better ideas than the ones we offered. But nothing happens unless the shit is stirred. That, for us, was job one.
If you followed us for sixty hours, and you find yourself caring about these issues more than you thought you would, then perhaps the next step is to engage and to demand, where possible, a more sophisticated and meaningful response from authority when it comes to such things as the drug war, educational reform or responsible political leadership. The Wire is about the America we pay for and tolerate. Perhaps it is possible to pay for, and demand, something more.
Again, accept our sincere thanks for making the commitment to watch a show as improbable and problematic as ours and for considering the arguments and issues seriously. We are surprised as you are to be here at the end, on our own terms, still standing. As a cast and crew, we’re proud. But the credit is not all ours. It’s yours as well for believing, year after year, in this story.
March 10, 2008
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No thankyou David for this eye-opening, rare gift of a show.
I cannot say how many times I’ve strongly suggest
friends, acquaintences, strangers to watch the
show, give it time to build and how rewarding,
moving, intelligent, complex, beautiful, funny it is.
The show IS incredibly entertaining, which in itself is a huge
achievement as you and the other writers are dealing
with HUGE topics, issues, figuring out a way of conveying
it all, and having the occasional rant, burst of frustration.
But I always preface, The show is far beyond mere entertainment.
When I first watched the show I was quite blown away
by all the places the characters/the case go, following the money
and what not, and wondered where the accolades for the
creators of the show were, such as those trite little award statues.
And I wondered about the impact it had on Baltimore itself
or various people in various places of power and reach.
Now that I know of this site, I’m ecstatic to be able
to find out more about the impact of your shows, books,
and general healthy, observant world view.
Mr. Simon, I have some things I’d like to say to you.
I am a fifteen year old native of Humboldt, Iowa, a town that doesn’t have nearly the number of misfortunes as a place nicknamed “Bodymore Murdaland” does. In fact, we have so few misfortunes that people leave their front doors unlocked for twenty four hour cycles. Despite growing up in this utopia, I’ve never been satisfied. Never satisfied with knowing as much as a kid of X years old should, so I set out on a search for knowledge, and I was quickly directed to The Wire.
The Wire was, to me, a realization. A realization that this world we live in IS fucked up, that you can’t leave your front door unlocked everywhere, that you can’t leave your BACK door unlocked everywhere, that you can’t walk down the street without a gun everywhere. It broke my cherry of naivete, and for that, I thank you, Ed Burns, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, and everyone else involved in the creation of the show.
Immediately after finishing “-30-“, I began the creation of an idea that had been stewing in my head throughout all five seasons, bouncing around the walls of my brain as boss X fucked over McNulty in this way or that, as Stringer became Gatsby, as Prez taught the test the way I had been taught the test not so long ago, and as McNulty said that last farewell to Baltimore.
So, as I sit at my computer, still running over ideas in my head, feeling satisfied with my current understanding of The Wire, mentally committed to the University of Maryland, I make my vow to you, that, as I age and become a member of our society, I will do my best to remember the teachings that you instilled into me and so many others through The Wire, Treme, Homicide, The Corner, and Generation Kill.
I will acquit if selected to jury a nonviolent drug crime, and, if I ever happen to take office, I will do everything in the illusion of my power in middle management to end the drug war and fix this country. But that’s the kind of mindset that gets you steamrolled with disappointment, bureaucracy, and institutional thought, right?
Thank you for The Wire, it is truly a message that should be seen, and undoubtedly ignored nonetheless, by every congressman, senator, president, UN representative, teacher, dock worker, and citizen of this great country and countries the world over. I won’t forget this gift you’ve given me and so many others. Thank you.
Maybe this blog is too new to have gotten many readers. To my sensibilities D.Simon may be one of the few men that contend with the serious, and largely ignored, issues of our time in the terms they are lived and expressed.
I am remembering D.Simon being interviewed on the Bill Moyers show.
So how is it that this post has no comments? No feedback? I don’t know, I hope it is not due to the straightforward telling of how it is.
We are a culture without the will to seriously examine our own problems…
Yes, that much seems apparent.
But still…Thank you, all of you, who collaborated to give us something to watch: This amazing program The Wire. And at least the invitation to “examine our problems”, even if it is predictable that the invitation would be declined.