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Monday, February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014: I Love The Wire’s Characters

[Last year, I wrote a Valentine’s Day-inspired series on some of my AmericanStudier loves. I had fun, so I’ve decided to do so again this year. I’d love for you to share some of the things you love for a crowd-sourced weekend post full of heart!]

On three particularly American characters from my favorite show.
There were so many great characters on The Wire that Bill Simmons famously created a March Madness-style bracket through which to determine the greatest (caution, SPOILERS abound). I love just about every one of them, but here want to focus on three whom I’d call especially relevant to AmericanStudying (as the whole show certainly is). I’ll stay away from spoilers of my own, I promise.
1)      Bubbles: A show that focused on (or at least began with) the drug trade needed at least one central character who was an addict, and across all five seasons that character was Andre Royo’s Bubbles. I don’t know of any character, in any medium, that has put a more nuanced, evolving, human face on drug addiction than Bubbles, and that in and of itself would qualify him for his list. But Bubbles’ character arc was also defined by some of the most fundamental American tensions: between salvation and backsliding, hope and despair, self-made success and the need for community.

2)      Bunny Colvin: Again, despite the numerous themes and issues to which David Simon and company connected their show, drugs and “the drug war” were at the heart of it. As the speech linked at his name indicates, season 3 protagonist Major Bunny Colvin (Robert Wisdom) embodied Simon’s perspective on that misguided and destructive war as well as any part of the show. But Bunny’s arc continued into season 4, and as it did it revealed a man trying to do anything he could to respond to some of his city’s and era’s worst crises: not just drugs and crime, but education, the loss of a generation (or more) of youth, and more. He didn’t entirely succeed (we’re talking The Wire here), but he certainly gave it everything he had, and there were victories to be sure.

3)      Omar: I’ve written before, on multiple occasions, about our persistent national embrace of righteous vigilantes, of those who take the law into their own hands for what seem to be the best of reasons. I’m certainly not immune to that perspective, as illustrated by my love for Omar, the charismatic gay stick-up man with a code who was probably the show’s most beloved character. Sure, Omar robbed people for a living, and killed on more than one occasion as well. But I defy anyone to watch the show and not root for him at least a bit—which says something about the character and Michael K. Williams’ performance to be sure, but says a good deal about those persistent narratives of outlaw heroism as well.
Next AmericanStudier love tomorrow,
PS. What do you love about or in American history, culture, identity, community?


  1. Never seen The Wire but I couldn't resist the offer to mention a television that I love. BBC's Sherlock is witty fun and brilliantly written. The co-create Steve Moffit is a veteran of the latest Dr. Who iteration which most of my students love, and I admit I love it too! The show is a nod to the original 19th cent stories with an interesting and fresh 21st cent feel. It's wonderfully Anglo-centric and best of all Benedict Cumberpatch is yet another Sherlock that most fans would line the streets to kiss!

  2. Thanks for sharing the love! I haven't seen that iteration of Sherlock, and I don't know if any TV Holmes will ever top Jeremy Brett for me; but I should give it a shot for sure.

    1. Ah, Jeremy Brett, good times. I'm nerdy enough to have listened Basil Rathbone on the radio... well itunes.

  3. Much like every other fan, I've always loved Omar's cowboy-esque attitude. In addition, though, Bodie's arc has ultimately been my favorite. His character's growth is brilliant, every internal strength advances him down a path that could only seem to induce harm.

  4. Totally agree, Joe. That I could mourn the loss of a character who [redacted for spoilers] in Season 1 is amazing development.

  5. Though Bodie is my #1, I'll also mention Stringer, whose Idris charm is redefined here as coldness, heartlessness. A true villain, but one we understood nearly comprehensively