After The Wire: what to do about Dukie

Dukie_ii I watched the last episode of The Wire last night.  Like every one, I was, what, injured by the scene that shows Dukie taking to heroin.  (For those who have not watched the show, Dukie was a sweet, slightly bewildered kid (foreground in this photo) who we have watched wander out of an abusive home into the protection of a gangster brother, then into the life on the street, then into the embrace of dope.)

David Simon must have had several motives in making The Wire.  Some artistic, some political, some pragmatic.  I mean, in 6 years the guy has changed the face of what is possible on TV and in the process he has transformed our culture.  But you get the feeling he would trade this accomplishment to make more material and more enduring difference in the life of a Dukie.

So I don’t feel the series is over until I do something, until lot of viewers do something, to make a difference for Dukie.  I have sent out a couple of emails asking friends what they think.  I mean, if you’re going to give money, to whom should it go?  If you are going to give time, what would you do?  If anyone has suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

My idea, predictably, is to give a guy like Dukie an anthropology of contemporary culture.  One of the ways out of that Baltimore is to understand the trap it is.  And David Simon has done that.  A good teacher in the right classroom could use The Wire to give Dukie a helicopter view of the hell he’s living in, the things to avoid, the pathways out. 

After that it’s up to the rest of us.  We need to map the culture outside Baltimore, the world in which Dukie must manage if he’s going to escape.  Who knows about this?  Well, anthropologists for one.  The ones that study contemporary culture that is.  Planners, too. Marketers of several kinds have a detailed knowledge of the domestic, professional, private and public lives that Dukie needs to know about.

Sure, this is patronizing.  We know.  Dukie doesn’t.  But hey, if I were Dukie, I would want to hear from someone on the outside.  And it doesn’t have to be an exercise in asymmetry, not if it’s a dispassionate, unsentimental kind of thing.  It just says "Dukie, here’s the 411 on all those worlds Simon couldn’t pack into The Wire." The idea is to mobilize Dukie by supplying him cultural capital and critical intelligence that is not now in place.

But hey, first things, first.  Please let me know, dear reader, what do you think is the best place to donate a hundred bucks.

9 thoughts on “After The Wire: what to do about Dukie

  1. Suzi

    Inner city programs like Manchester Bidwell, run by Bill Strickland. Someone from the streets taking back the streets, literally.

  2. Michael Turro

    I don’t think you can really even start talking about change until you start talking about legalizing… or at least de-criminalizing… drugs. This seems to be what Simon was saying in Season 3 with Bunny Colvin’s experiment.

  3. Marissa

    Hi Grant.

    Understanding the complex systems that perpetuate social problems (UNDERSTANDING) + cultivating personal power (DOING) are (to me) the biggest barriers to finding solutions…

    Drugs, poverty, self-esteem, culture — all of these ‘things’ are so deeply connected in a variety of complex ways…highlighting the interconnectedness of social problems is ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL – as we discussed, the ‘ecosystem’ portrayed in the wire does this so effectively – and much better than many works from more academic endeavors.

    I could go on for days about the power of media to facilitate empathy…the idea that a television viewer can feel so deeply connected to people and problems outside their experience is fascinating + inspiring…!

    So…check out

    Their scope has is now more international in focus/human rights based, but this organization is very effective in teaching “video advocacy” — check it out.

    also, see: — find thousands of causes and initiatives. this is the craigslist of non-profits.

    it was great to meet you. i hope to continue the dialogue….!

  4. Will

    Hi Grant,
    I have to say the way things were left with Duquan left me disturbed and upset. Dont get me wrong, I have enjoyed the show and liked the ending, it was real and for that I thank David Simon. Dukie was just a good kid on the most part, a kid who just could not adapt to his environment. If you look back at Dukie and his counterparts, it shows just what happens to so many of these kids. Only one in five become like Namond, the rest, nearly 80% end up like Michael, a dealer and soldier, like Randy, in the system, like Dukie a drug addict or like Little Kevin, DEAD.

    The sad thing is I think that David Simons message is that very little can be done. That with the system the way it is these children are the real victims, doomed to being mismanaged by the system and its all in a game of politics. That is the only way we can expect change, in the political spectrum. Dont hold your breath.

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