The Wire is by all measures a cult classic. I’m not sure how many times friends shamed me because I refused to watch it. I refused to watch it for several reasons, namely because the Baltimore it portrayed was one that was still in existence and broken. But last summer I buckled down, booted up my HBO and sat through season after season. There were tears. There were moments of laughter.
But mainly, there was reflection on how eerily similar the series was to real life. But once the cameras stopped rolling, what was depicted on the show was still festering years later.
Several cast members from the popular series have made pleas on social media to the small faction of people in Baltimore who have been looting and rioting. Andre Royo, who played The Wire’s resident crackhead and snitch, urged Baltimore to hold peaceful demonstrations, as if the people weren’t already doing that. But apparently he’s only seeing one side of the story.
Wendell Pierce, who played Detective Bunk, made a point to show that the protesters and the violent rioters were not one and the same.
The Wire used Baltimore’s crime and corruption as its backdrop and profited off it for years. But when real life is in the show’s creators’ faces instead of actors, lights, camera and “action,” it seems as though they forget just how grimy Baltimore and its political machine and corruption are in real life.
David Simon, the creator and former Baltimore news reporter, took to his blog to urge peaceful protests and to remind people that they were marring the memory of Freddie Gray.
“The anger and the selfishness and the brutality of those claiming the right to violence in Freddie Gray’s name needs to cease,” Simon wrote. “Here was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially, and there was real unity at his homegoing today. But this, now, in the streets, is an affront to that man’s memory and a diminution of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death.
“If you can’t seek redress and demand reform without a brick in your hand, you risk losing this moment for all of us in Baltimore. Turn around. Go home. Please,” Simon continued.
And that’s exactly what most of the cast of The Wire did when the series was over. They turned around and went home. Makeshift sets were packed. Extras were sent back to their neighborhoods to live in squalor. The director chair was gone.
But what they fail to realize is that the corruption, death, police brutality, dirty politics and a system as broken and severed as Gray’s spine still exist. And unfortunately, there’s no one around capable of directing the outcome.