Shakima Greggs vs. Kay Howard: Simon’s Evolution

After watching a few episodes of The Wire by David Simon I couldn’t help but easily draw parallels between the more recent series and Simon’s earlier work with Homicide: Life on the Street. One of the most notable similarities is the insertion of hard-nosed and masculine female detectives in both series. Both Det. Shakima Greggs of The Wire and Det. Kay Howard in Homicide bear a striking resemblance–both are lone women in their departments, embody masculine gender roles and treated as “one of the guys” by their comrades.

However, it seems that in the time between Homicide and The Wire Simon’s characterization has progressed, or at least evolved. As opposed to Howard, Greggs’s character is openly lesbian and we are allowed to see into her domestic sphere. Greggs is also a Black American, adding another interesting element to her character; giving her particular stake in the work she does with regards to violence and drug-related crime. Given the historical tradition of encoding homosexual characters and rarely blatantly marking them as such, when watching Homicide I often wondered if Det. Howard was meant to be a lesbian character. While I can only still speculate, her character was reportedly popular among LGBT audience members. Regardless of whether or not the character of Shakima Greggs was a purposeful leap forward, I am very pleased to see not just a Black lesbian woman represented on the show, but I also like that the show goes a step further in into her personal interactions with her partner and shows their lives as ordinary rather than exotic or sensationalized.

One response to “Shakima Greggs vs. Kay Howard: Simon’s Evolution

  1. Tekken152, you make an interesting observation about the sexuality of Howard and Greggs. It made me think about Jenny in The World According to Garp and how she labeled herself and women like her as “sexual suspects” because they hadn’t attached themselves to a man and thus be seen as “helpmates.” Indeed, Howard and Greggs are the lone women in their police worlds. I wonder if Greggs was portrayed as a lesbian in order to avoid the obvious sexual harassment that comes with the job. I believe a few remarks passed between the Baldwin character and Howard and she reminded him that he was a married man. Howard provides the moral compass that guides the relationships with her male counterparts. How about S. Epatha Merkerson in Law & Order – does she get respect because she’s the boss?