The Wire lured me in like a Snickers lures a sugar-holic. Three long episodes on a Saturday afternoon so I went to bed that night muttering street thug lingo like put a cap in that m-f-a, he be the snitch or this here America, man. Some social scientist might claim I was appropriating. Old white guy leering at young black guy and getting his rocks off, whatever that means. Me, I’m just looking for a tale well told, with gut punches that keep me on edge. The truth is I hate and I love as Catullus said, any show that does that to me. In conversations with friends I don’t like admitting this addictive behavior. Hi, I’m Lance Levens and I binge-watch The Wire. What would my grown kids think. I’m conservative Christian. What would my CC friends think—especially about a show that throws M-f out like a machine gun in a black and white WWII flick about Iwo Jima.
So is this a confession? Of sorts. Its more a questioning confession, wondering why I’m so drawn to this level of mean streetness. Is my comfortable suburban lifestyle generating these subterranean yearnings for an edgy, put-a-cap in him world? The order and propriety I live in and with daily—is that causing a reaction, a backlash that summons up some fifteen-year-old gang member I me who needs a kill or two under his belt to be initiated in the club?
The truth is it’s all a trick. A scam on John Q Public, aka me. The Wire and other shows like it want to persuade me that this is where the real world is, the world I live in where folks have a regular job, go to church, raise kids, enjoy Christmas and Easter with the family. That world isn’t real. It’s a bad faith existence. You need blood and fear and cursing and law breakers to create a genuine world where emotional outbursts lead to a shootout and bleeding bodies on the asphalt while bubble gum machines provide the strobe light aesthetic. So it’s the same old abracadabra, three card monty that Hollywood has always played with our minds and hearts. The problem is: even though I know what the scam is, I keep coming back time and time again hoping to catch the magician with his hand in the hat. As St. Paul said: “Oh, who will save me from the body of flesh. I do what I ought not do.” Some comfort at least, to know Paul had a similar problem.