David Simon meet Will Wright

Omar The Wire continues to follow an imaginary serial killer as he turns Baltimore politics upside down.   In a panic, the mayor moves tax dollars from education to street policing.  Politicians, police, journalists, gang leaders, civil servants, and consultants scramble to protect their positions, and, occasionally, serve the people of Baltimore. 

As a northeastern city with a crumbing tax base, Baltimore is an exercise in managed decline.  All choices are invidious.  Everyone plays, everyone loses.  In The Wire, it also becomes a place to understand dynamic systems, to see how trade-offs work, and to chart the intended and unintended consequences of decisions made by the players of Baltimore.  David Simon has set his ricochet effect to "high," and his Baltimore vibrates in ways that are accidental, unpredictable, and chaotic.  Simon helps us see that whatever happens, the people of Baltimore are made to pay in suffering and misery. 

The Wire is extraordinary TV.  But it is also an education tool.  We could ask students to identify the players, the connections, the hoped for and accidental outcomes, the way the system is weighted for certain outcomes, the way small events cascade into bigger issues.  We could help students see the real costs of underfunding, broken systems, and corrupt players. 

Indeed, it may be time for David Simon to work with Will Wright and make a Baltimore a place where the viewer must choose.  It’s time to make The Wire a simulation.  (And in my simulation Omar never dies.) 


Wikipedia on Will Wright here.

2 thoughts on “David Simon meet Will Wright

  1. Jason Mittell

    Grant – we’re thinking along similar lines around the show. I’ve written an essay (forthcoming in an anthology, in draft form on my blog at http://justtv.wordpress.com/2007/05/22/the-wire-and-the-serial-procedural-an-essay-in-progress/) that considers The Wire using the framework of videogames, especially SimCity. And next year, I’ll be teaching a semester-long course called Urban America & Serial Television: Watching The Wire, in which we’ll be using the show as a way to understand various aspects of contemporary America. Should be intense to watch the whole series in 3 months!

  2. Tom Guarriello

    I am still bummed about Omar. What was it that made this particular outlaw so appealing? His homosexuality, casting him as an outlaw’s outlaw? His boldness, putting himself out there in broad daylight like a 21st century bizarro-world Gary Cooper? His loyalty, leading him to seek revenge for the gratuitous murder of his blind mentor? Whatever it was, this character was unique and his demise oddly saddening. Oh, and his street-poetry, Jesse James-style death kind of sealed the deal.

Comments are closed.