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.

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2 comments

  1. Tina · October 31, 2015

    The Wire definitely takes an ethnographic approach to telling a story and it shows that evil people exist in every race. It is ignorant to define an entire group of people based on the actions of a few. We all must remind ourselves to never judge a book by its cover.

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  2. yashalan · October 31, 2015

    Adichie’s experience of understanding just one representation definitely resonates with me, as you mentioned in the first line of your post. Like her, I was conditioned to only write stories with the default characters in my mind, and those defaults were the people I saw most in media, mid-20’s white males. They were the centers of my stories. That was all I ever saw growing up, and one day my friend and I discussed this as creators of content. And it was then that we both realized that we were conditioned to only create and write about white people, and as two black young adults we realized that we weren’t representing ourselves. We only wrote from what was represented in all we watched. It was then that we started taking steps to representing ourselves and started writing about people of color, like us.

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