The Wire Finale Season 4

The season 4 finale of The Wire closes on winners and losers. So much of this season was about kids and the influences the older generation has on them. A father son bond developed or was attempted with a lot of the characters. Most obvious was with Colvin and Naimen. It was relieving to see WeyBe, Naimens father do the right thing even though it was hard for him to accept Colvin could give his son a better life, or life period really. Seeing Naimen go from one of the trouble makers in his school to literally being forced by his mother to sell drugs and then transform into a kid with a chance at a better life was uplifting. On the other hand we see some disappointments as Prysbuluski sits in his car on a street corner and see Dukie, one his brightest students who he has taken a special interest in, sell drugs on a street corner. Knowing how Dukie’s family treated him, by stealing his clothes and making it impossible for him to be hygenic, he was sadly in a better place living with and selling those drugs for Michael than with his terrible neglecting family.

Michael underwent a pretty big transformation as well, now being a solider in Marlo’s street gang. He kills on order and doesn’t ask any questions and again sadly his life appears to be better than it was at home with his poorly addicted mother. Now he has his own apartment and lives with his younger brother and has taken Dukie in as well. In the end montage we see him sleeping in the back of the SUV after just having shot someone point blank in the head. Michael  has accepted his new family and his role.

Then there’s Randy and Carver. Randy has been outed through Herc’s stupidity as a snitch and is a target for other kids to bully and beat up now. Carver tries everything he can, pleads with social services and ultimately becomes frustrated with the very system he serves part in. In the end he is not able to save Randy from having to go to a group home where he will be picked on by other street kids.

In the end of all that happened to the four kids Michael, Dukie, Randy, and Naimen. It was almost shocking that Naimen was the one who got the best deal in the end. Whether we feel he deserved it or not, I feel out of the four kids he knew most what a better life was, and recognized his chance when it presented itself. He was also lucky that Colvin aka Bunny took an interest in him. This is such a great series, there is so much more to know about these character and what they went through and if you havent seen the entire series I strongly suggest you do.

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Race and The Wire

Linda Williams suggest the Wire depicts race differently than other media. She uses a few movies as examples in Chapter six of her book”On The Wire” such as “Bruce Almighty”, “Green Mile”, and “Django Unchained”. The first two as she puts it would be “Tom Films, showcasing a Magical Negro” that continue a tradition of making whites feel good about their own good feelings towards blacks. Django Unchained “seeks either revenge against, or reparations for, previous injury”.

The Wire follows none of these formulas when depicting race. In fact though Race does play an important role, its not so black and white and good and evil as other media suggests. The Wire is full of different black characters, from corner kids and drug dealers, to mayors and senators. Due to this the burden of race is lifted and class is much more visible.

Linda also points out that because of this the blacks that do run around and live in the ghettos doesn’t seem “normal” as its depicted in other media. We see successful and hard working middle and upper class African Americans in the show and it makes us as viewers ask ourselves, whats really going on with these troubled kids in these messed up schools and drug dealers.

A few other ways the show depicts race differently is through Herc and Carver. They used to be partners in earlier seasons but took a few different paths and remain close friends. Herc, the white cop is constantly taking shortcuts and getting in trouble for it. He recently got camera equipment stolen from one of his illegal operations to spy on Marlo and is now taking heat for it from his unit captain. Carver on the other hand a young black officer and teaches his new white partner the ropes, about “its not all about busting heads”, Carver teaches having respect from these people out here and treating them with respect is how to do your police work effectively.

Another example is with the character Carcetti running for Mayor in a prodominatly black city, Baltimore. It was very different seeing the “white guy” in this political office running as an underdog, and leaning on the support of black community leaders and campaign mangers to get him the win. The Wire does a great job with this as its not done as other media. As the book explains When aspiring mayor Carcetti says, “I still wake up white in a city that ain’t”.”he is not portrayed as an innocent victim of the city’s majority black population, but as an Italian American cooly judging his odds of getting elected” Carcetti being white is also not used as him becoming the hero to the city that was being run by an evil corrupt black villain either, as he doesn’t initially follow through with his promises to save the schools and fix the police as he campaigned to do so.

 

Michael: Wire

Michael has grasped my attention the most in these episodes of the Wire. Unlike the other kids he hangs with he has grown up a lot with the fact that his mother is a drug addict who doesn’t seem to provide for ethier him or his much younger brother Bug. The way he reacts around older men suggests he doesn’t trust them. We notice this based on his reaction to the boxing gym coach Cutty, who has his flaws with the women and mothers of the children who work out in the gym. But we can tell Cutty just wants to really train Michael into becoming a boxer and Michael just thinks its weird that Cutty has taken an interest in him. Which leads me to believe that maybe he was molested by his father at an earlier point and thats what drives him to ask Chris and Snoop to kill his father. Michael shows them where his father is and Snoop asks  “What he do to you?” Michael doesn’t answer back and Chris just looks at him and understands . Though we didn’t get to see the brutal killing of his father in class, the way in which Chris kills Michael’s father wasn’t just about him being a junkie father to his kids. We also see how this pleased Michael afterwards when he tells his mother who had just returned from looking for the father ” Told you so”. It was a jab to her that he wasn’t ever coming back, and he would just let her think he had abandoned them again.

I feel Michael is very smart as he has obtained the interest of Marlo, Chris and Snoop’s gang leader, and has used that to his advantage to have them kill his father. Michael would have every reason to hate drug dealers for the fact that his mother is addicted to drugs and neglects her duties as a mother to him and his brother. But yet he uses the drug dealers to do justice on his father. Michael has this cool calculating dynamic to his very quiet, polite nice kid, big brother side.

Serial: Given the subject matter…

Serial is definitely exciting, the way Sarah Koenig narrates her story about Adnan Syed’s case are full of surprises, confusion and murder. Which is usually the cornerstone to any great detective story.

Due to fact that Serial is based on a real crime, Hae Minh Lee’s murder, one may ask if Serial is appropriate given the subject matter. I feel that Serial is in fact appropriate despite this. Early on in the podcast and sometime later Sarah explains how she made several attempts via letters to contact Hae Minh Lee’s family for a response on the podcast and received no word back, she assumed they did not want to be contacted. We never get to hear a sorrowful mother and father mourning the death of their child, which helps make it appropriate due to the context. Serial is not exciting because it’s based on an innocent girl’s life being taken. I found Serial to be exciting due to Sarah’s story telling and decisions on where and when to give the facts. For example we don’t even know what Jay looks like until almost halfway through the podcast, this shrouded him in mystery even though his testimony is a huge part of what lands Adnan in prison. The shady conversations between the detectives and  Jay are interesting.

Throughout the podcast, especially when Sarah reached out to “professionals” was very exciting and appropriate in it’s educational form. There is so much to learn from Serial about how a defense attorney can be over worked and screw up someones case and how detectives interest may be solely on getting the case closed rather than getting to the truth of the matter. How and where Hae’s body was found by that alcoholic streaker janitor was particularly exciting for story purposes, Sarah didn’t have to share his past time hobbies but it drew me in as a listener in a way took away form sadness of the overall situation.

A Nice Guy

Serial is a podcast by Sarah Koenig, where the audience is given a weekly episode into the events that led to Adnan Syed, the main character, left to carry out a sentence in prison for the murder of his then ex-girlfriend Hae Minh Lee. Throughout the podcast Adnan is potrayed by many as a nice kid whom would never be capable of such an act like murder. Sarah, a journalist has taken interest in the case and aims to help the audience understand the inconsistencies with the case that was made against Adnan 16 years ago. Sarah and Adnan have logged many hours over the phone in the course of her story and when we hear Adnan speak, he sounds very comfortable and relaxed speaking about his past life and the events that led up to his incarceration. It isn’t until about halfway through the  season we hear a different Adan when he asks Sarah why she is doing this story about him and Sarah responds, “My interest in it honestly has been you, like you’re a really nice guy. Like I like talking to you, you know” Adnan’s response is, “I just, yeah, oh, I mean, you don’t even really know me though uh Koenig. I’m, you don’t. I- I- maybe you do. Maybe, I don’t- we only talk on the phone, I don’t understand what you mean. I’m not- I mean, it’s-it’s-it’s just weird to hear you say that, because, I don’t even really know you–

Sarah is shocked to hear Adnan saying she doesn’t really know after speaking to him for so long in person and over the phone, and asks him to explain what he meant and what does she not know about him the next day. Adnan responds ” To be honest with you, it kinda- I feel like I want to shoot myself, if I hear someone else say, I don’t think he did it cause you’re a nice guy, Adnan. So I guess kinda, you know, cause you wouldn’t know that, but I hear people say that to me over the years and it just drives me crazy. I would love someone to hear, I would to hear love someone to say, I don’t think that you did it because I looked at the case and it looks kind of flimsy. I would rather someone say, Adnan, I think you’re a jerk, you’re selfish, you know, you’re a crazy SOB, you should just stay in there for the rest of your life except that I looked at your case and it looks, you know, like a little off. You know like something’s not right.

Though this part of the podcast may seem  very out of character of what their conversations have been like prior to this, I feel this is important in the fact that Sarah decided to share this and make it a part of her story for the audience to hear. It goes with the melodramatic style of Serial and shows us even though Sarah does in fact care for Adnan she is writer before anything else. We have to remind ourselves there is obviously many hours of other conversation between Sarah and Adnan that she specifically does not include in her story because it is not relevant to what she wants to portray to us as listeners and it doesn’t fit the conventional murder mystery style of this story. Everything up to this point and this particular conversation especially continues to grasp our attention and makes us question our previous thoughts on whether Adnan is innocent or not. Sarah is a great writer and knows how to spread the facts to give her audience just enough to keep them coming back weekly.

Only one story

In the Ted Talk, Adichie explains her experience of discovering the problems of only learning one story. She discusses how distorted our perception can be of a concept, person or situation if we only know one perspective. This is really what The Wire’s style is all about. It’s about moving away from a story or a show that only shows that one perspective. It’s about leaving behind rifle-shot journalism and proceeding in the form of ethnography. The Wire aims to provide a multi perspectival look at Baltimore to see the problems faced in the city from as many perspectives as possible. Due to this, rather than the viewers seeing the drug dealers as trash, or the intercity kids as a waste of effort, or the police as corrupt and careless we can see a more realistic view of the story. We instead get to see that some people in the drug trade are decent human beings. Rather than being trashy people they are instead often people who do not see any other options for financial survival.

We can also see that many of the kids are hindered by their home life, the drug activity, and the poverty that surrounds them. If we only saw the kids from the perspective of the teachers or the cops, we may perceive them all to be troublemakers and a waste of effort to try to educate. Instead, we can see that many of them are simply struggling to survive and thus have more pressing concerns than education. In addition, we see how early on the kids are exposed to the drug trade and the value that the adults in their lives instill upon the trade. This is another reason much of the youth of Baltimore seems to value school very little.

We are also able to see that there are both good cops and bad cops policing the streets and that they face a great deal of barriers in managing the problems of the city. In typical cop or crime shows we are usually only shown the side we want to see of this – the good cops. We also usually see a vastly simplified solution to the problems or that the solutions are not looked into in-depth. So, in The Wire, the various perspectives allow us to understand the reality of these peoples’ lives and see that everyone has a story and unique situation.

Problems with Serial

Both of the articles make interesting comments about Serial. The one by Spook Magazine seems to come to broader, more negative conclusions about Serial than the Patheos article. From our perspective, the Patheos article actually seemed to be more critical of the cell phone evidence and the case than of the Serial podcast. We aren’t sure if this is so much a problem with the podcast as it is with the evidence. However, we do recognize that during the podcast Sarah and Dana came to some conclusions based on what the state had presented against Adnan. While they presented their doubt as to the reliability of the cell phone data, their conclusions may have been irresponsible since they had this doubt.

The Spook article did touch on some important and sensitive issues also. One of these, and probably the most concerning, is the fact that this is a real life tragedy and, realistically, it is being used for entertainment purposes. This raises some issues in regards to respect for the victim and her family. While Koenig seems to have attempted to provide a positive and accurate image of Hae, the image is still very limited. Much more focus, partially due to the available input of information, falls on Adnan’s side. Also, the very nature of the usage of the story for entertainment could, presumably, be causing distress and pain to Hae’s family and friends.

Another issue raised is the motivation for the podcast and the storytelling style that underscores it. While the point of the story upfront seems to be about finding the truth, there seems to be some slant in Adnan’s favor. We realize that while Sarah acts as though she has little bias, she is human and thus is unable to be completely neutral. However, many listeners of the story may not perceive the bias. The style of the storytelling enforces the feeling that the podcast is not biased. The way the story seems to unravel each week, based on investigation and facts can be misleading to listeners. We also agreed with the lack of input from certain characters in the podcast. While Jay and Stephanie played huge parts in the story presented, we do not actually hear from them. Not only were they a huge part of the story but they had the potential to show the side that does not work in Adnan’s favor. The closest thing we get to hearing them speak is when Dana and Sarah relate a single conversation they had with Jay. However, this still excludes Stephanie who seems like she could greatly contribute to the story.

SERIAL AND PERSUASIVENESS

Through the Serial podcasts, we heard various narrative perspectives and points of view. From the start, Serial portrayed multiple sides of the story, including Sarah’s, who was one of the producers. What made Serial so persuasive was that it told a story through someone else who was trying to figure out the facts, and displaying those facts through the podcast. Most of the time, you read an article, or view a case on the news, and you absorb the information second hand. Being able to listen to both sides from their mouths had an effect on how we perceived the suspects in the case. How they told their stories, such as tone of voice, created a sense of truth.

One very persuasive aspect of Serial was the storytelling. We often hear stories about crime tilted in favor of the storyteller. The story is set up from the beginning with an assumption of guilt on one side. In Serial, although Adnan is in jail and thus presumed guilty, Sarah told the story impartially. We were persuaded into thinking that Adnan was guilty because his friend was supposedly there, and vouched he was a witness at the time. It changed when we heard Adnan speak on his view of that day. He was adamant, and as Sarah specified, that he “flat out, did not do it.” He was confident and sincere in his delivery. Another persuasive aspect was the people who came to his defense. They portrayed him as well-rounded, and too occupied with his life to make such an erroneous decision. His family and friends testified that he was religious, played sports, and got good grades.

Through Sarah, the listener took a journey through the events that led to and followed Hae’s murder. She included a great deal of comments from people who knew those involved in the story. This is something crime stories rarely share with us:  an impartial view. With Serial, the opinions and comments were mixed, and they were from so many sources that they felt impartial. Although persuasiveness can be a good thing, it can change the truth of what might have really happened. Serial had many aspects of truth and points of view, so that it was easy to be persuaded by each person who took part in the story.

Bruce Alexander and Rat Park

The findings of Alexander’s experiments raise questions about the common understanding of addiction and how to handle it. Alexander’s experiments with Rat Park showed flaws in the original rat experiments that provided much of the evidence for our common ideas about addiction. He demonstrated that socially deprived rats medicated themselves, often to death, with drugs. However, he also showed that when rats were given a natural environment, with distractions and other rats with which to interact, they chose to abstain from drug use. Even rats that were drug dependent for 57 days chose to suffer withdrawal symptoms and become sober when given the opportunity in Rat Park.

The experiments call into question the current system for managing drug use and addiction. They help to explain why drug wars that further isolate people in cages result in a revolving door system of drug offenders. If drugs are something people bond with in place of human connection, if the problem is not addiction, but instead the cage that addicts live in, then our system for dealing with addiction is destined to fail. Alexander outlines the current Official View of Addiction. This paradigm sees addicts as people who cannot be cured, but only managed. It does not address why people abuse substances other than genetic predispositions, or chronic, relapsing brain disease. These assumptions minimize the ability to overcome addiction, and do not address psychological or environmental factors. Alexander suggests that the Dislocation Theory of Addiction better explains addiction, and that like rats, humans who reconnect with society would naturally stop using.

The struggles with the current view of addiction are demonstrated throughout The Wire. Drug users and dealers are written off by most as lost causes. There is little to no focus on solving the drug problem. This phenomenon is embodied in the character Bubbles, a crack addict who struggles with sobriety and a sense of belonging. Simon mentioned in one of his interviews that the drug war is pointless. He suggested that our society would be better off decriminalizing drugs and using the money to rehabilitate addicts, and reconnect them to society by giving them a sense of purpose. While this sounds radical, according to the article by Hari, it was put into place in Portugal and was very effective. The top drug cop in Portugal was initially against the move for various reasons, but he later admitted that none of his dire predictions about legalization had come to pass. This is enlightening information and seems to suggest that other countries with similar problems, including the United States, would benefit from the decriminalization of drug use.

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How the Film Imitation of Life (1959) Critiqued 1950’s American Culture

Although dismissed by some critics as a melodramatic “tear-jerker”, Imitation of Life was a realistic critique of 1950’s American Culture in several ways. One of the main themes was racial identity and relations. The film used Sarah Jane’s feelings about her mixed ethnicity as a way to show attitudes toward African Americans in general. The main characters did not overtly judge her, however, they never really attempted to speak to Sarah Jane about her issues. Although it was clear that Sarah Jane was hurting inside, her problems were dismissed or ignored by the rest of the characters. Sarah Jane felt she had to remove herself from her mother, Annie, being black in order to be accepted by whites, and get where she wanted.  Lora also never regarded Annie as an equal. Even though Lora had become a prosperous actress, she continued to treat Annie and Sarah Jane as servants. Steve mentioned this to Annie in one scene, and Sarah Jane mocked a creole accent in another to highlight the matter.

Another of the film’s critiques of 1950’s American Culture was gender roles. All of the main female characters were portrayed as dramatic, delicate, and overexcited women. Both Annie and Lora were shown in different scenes crying in someone’s lap in utter distress. Lora had a meltdown because her agent tried to exploit her sexually, but she subsequently accepted the admiration of the writer. She maintained an unhappy relationship with the writer for many years to achieve success as an actress. There were also implications that women should be married and taken care of by their husbands. Lora’s career was a consistent reason why Steve would not marry her, and her lack of attention as a mother created problems which alienated her from her daughter. The film suggested that ambitious, career-minded women were a detriment to society.