A new mission inspired by The Wire

Blog, TV Shows

The trajectory of Reel Review by Lauryn has reached a bifurcation point.

Let me back up. . . hello! How are you? Yes, I know it has been a hot minute. I have my reasons (is it too soon to blame 2020)?

I am so excited to share this new found sense of purpose with you all. I have truly enjoyed writing film and television reviews and plan to continue. After months of reflection something in my mind was telling me to do more. As cliché or cheesy as it sounds, I have been looking for a way to work both collaboratively and independently to analyze scenes in film and make connections to educational topics such as history, psychology, or statistics. Pairing film with literature to make a difference now sits at the core of Reel Review by Lauryn. With this,

Reel Review by Lauryn has a new mission: to advocate, promote and increase literacy of others through film and television.

This mission flourished after I completed my first assignment of the new year. During the course of the semester, my classmates and I are tasked to analyze the social, moral and political perspectives of the criminal justice system through the HBO series The Wire. I find this non-conventional pedagogical method has really enhanced my appreciation for both literature and film. Now, I want to explore it with a community I share the deepest connection with: fellow students. In 2021, Reel Review by Lauryn has a new goal: to connect with local communities to advocate and promote literacy through film and television.

Very excited to launch this new initiative. Would love to hear your comments, thoughts and suggestions. If you have any films I should start with please share in the comments below 🙂

As a treat, here is the assignment that started it all:

** This assignment contains spoilers for the first three episodes of The Wire.

The origins of The Wire play on a careful balance between revenge and compassion. In essence, The Wire is David Simon’s literary version of a “revenge body.” Out of disappointment, betrayal and anger, David Simon pours all his efforts into creating something that will make The Baltimore Sun, his “ex,” regret every action they’ve ever made. Although its original origins may stem from anger, this “revenge” product ends up showing compelling compassion for vulnerable populations who receive the harsh realities of capitalism and chasing the American Dream in Baltimore.

The Wire’s debut didn’t have much commercial success. But are we really surprised? Everything truly great is never liked the first time, the world isn’t ready for it. Especially when the HBO subscription based audience is “composed of (comparatively) affluent, middle class, white Americans” [1] in 2002. Friends and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation were the two topped ranked television programs in the United States. The Wire was a different breed of television. 

I laughed when commentators celebrated the “equal image rights of both criminals and police.” [2] The writer’s room for The Wire must have been the best. I imagine the atmosphere to be similar to the office of Rhonda Pearlman. Messy, filled with loose papers and a disorganized pile of previous novels from Mr. Lehan or Mr. Pelecanos. Or perhaps the writers room had a stack of  old Baltimore Sun newspapers in the middle of the table with red circles on the stories that would inspire the next episode. Or possibly red Xs over stories that shook David Simon to his core. A red X on a news headline that finally made him realize that he was tired of merely reporting real life. It was time for him to create a story to tell the world. Afterall, “when you write for a TV show like The Wire you’ve got three to four million readers watching your work. Even Grisham doesn’t sell that many books.”[3]

Writing a living novel is every writer’s dream. Each frame is used like a page to push the story along. Each progression closer and closer to piercing the veil between reality and fiction. We look to the television to tell us stories. But more importantly, we look for answers.  I can see a female audience member looking to solve her troubles with an ex-boyfriend through the uncommitted and steamy relationship between Rhonda Pearlman and Detective McNulty. Of course, I wouldn’t follow it. But it’s TV, and the uncertainty we have in MUST be satisfied on screen.

Let me get back to the show. Who do you call the worst cop who graduated from the police academy? A cop. No, it’s “a Pryzbylewski.”

The city of Baltimore is selfish. It’s filled with its own illnesses of racial discrimination, poverty and corruption. Baltimore selfishly conceals the hypocrisies of society that make it impossible for an outsider to relate to its harsh realities. Unfamiliarity takes my hand and gently walks me away from these realities. I am detached from it. This is why The Wire couldn’t be a documentary or another book voluntarily bought by someone who’s interest is piqued by a creative cover or criminal justice reform. David Simon did it right. The Wire needs to be a show so everyone ­– including the HBO subscriber audience ­– can swallow the history of Baltimore while being distracted by attractive actors, lighting, makeup and wardrobe. 

These people need to feel real to us. I need to hate Pryzbylewski and Herc. I can’t stand them. Pryzbylewski betrayed me when he blinded a 14 year old boy in a desperate attempt to assert his dominance to make up for his mediocrity at his job. I need to appreciate the unconventional genius of Bubbles and his “red hat” routine to help Kima Greggs identify key players in the low risers. When this happens, Unfamiliarity walks away and compassion, love and understanding sit with me on the couch as I view the next episode with a hot cup of tea. 

There is more to say. The adversarial criminal justice system in the United States force defendants to rely on an attorney to defend them even if they act like Maurice Levy, hitting his client after referring to him as “you people.” That was the one time where I physically acted in disgust toward a character. I immediately thought to myself, this show is too good. 

David Simon doesn’t function like a doctor writing a prescription to cure Baltimore’s illnesses. Simon is more of a researcher. He discovering the root of these issues using critical observation, took detailed notes and presented it to the world. He did it right. He stopped dictating the world around him and created his own novel using television. 

[1] The Wire Urban Decay and American Television (9) 

[2] REVISIONS, Now on TV, Drug Dealers and Gravity Mafia Dons 

[3] The Television Show that Thinks it’s a Novel

Cheers to a brighter 2021,


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