Effectiveness of systemic analysis

In Kinder’s article, “Re-Wiring Baltimore: The Emotive Power of Systemics, Seriality, and the City,” discusses how The Wire’s systemic analysis strengthens the emotional effect it has, creating a great television series. Essentially, Kinder argues that systemic analysis is the best way to fully use the narrative power in television and deliver the most emotionally compelling performance. Although I agree with Kinder’s statement, I wonder whether an emotionally gripping piece is really enough to enact change in Baltimore and other cities.

A systemic analysis paired with an emotionally driving force does cause the audience to react, but does it effect the change Simon wants? I feel that Simon evokes emotion, but because it is driven by deep pessimism, I would argue that the audience is left feeling there is nothing they can do to fight this. Simon delivers truth, but not enough hope to drive the audience to enact change. I question whether this is the most effective way to compel viewers to help eliminate this corruption that affects Baltimore and many other cities across the country.

5 responses to “Effectiveness of systemic analysis

  1. !! I wrote about this exact problem. I’m not sure if Simon simply wants to educate is, and if in that we can figure out problems, or if he truly feels like there is nothing we can do (though evidence is against the latter).

    Maybe Simon doesn’t feel like it’s his place to offer solutions, so he simply takes a stance away from the issues and offers only emotional and situational information. But since he isn’t aggressive in the sense of telling the audience of how to “fix” Baltimore, is it really effective in terms of making people act?

  2. I doubt that The Wire has (or will) been much of a cause for change in criminal activity. I felt like the point of the show was more to let the viewer into a world that, for most of them, seemed uninhabitable and scary. Even if Simon meant for any of his work (or subsequent programming) to have an agenda or bring awareness it was probably lost on the audience to some extent; sure it forces them to deal with aspects of reality otherwise unacknowledged but the show still remains a show. It’s still entertainment.

  3. It is interesting that the cyclical nature that Dolan discusses applies to both the cops and the guys on the street. When Wallace dies we understand someone is in the wings waiting to fill his spot, yet if Greggs or McNulty were to die, their positions appear harder to fill. Certainly their job is very important and this particular case illuminates the significance of the work they do. Each detective at the end of Season 1 seems to say that it was the best police work they have ever done. To be good police seems to take a very unique and intelligent person that is willing to work for the benefit of the city and get paid not very much. The job appears to take extreme dedication, and for a college grad becoming a police detective is not usually high on the list for professions. The truthful cops also seem to be the ones that are hurt by the system, so the entire profession is a huge struggle. Whole exactly wants this line of work? Someone like McNulty is cut out for it, because he cannot picture himself doing anything else, but it takes a unique person.
    So in saying all this, Simon makes it clear that enacting change will be difficult and Dolan illustrates the circular nature or both the cops and the bad guys. The Wire made me respect the work that the detectives did and wanted them to focus upon cases like the Barksdale one that would benefit society as a whole. Simon illustrates that change will be difficult to achieve with the present structure of the police department and the qualities of a good cop are hard to find in most people and even if someone has them, they aren’t necessarily going to succeed as a cop.

  4. You raise an interesting point: is Simon calling for change; suggesting an irresolvable, self-perpetuating cycle; or strictly exposing us to institutional corruption and oppression? Like you, I cannot help but sense Simon’s jaded cynicism, which might otherwise lead me to believe that he takes the second stance, but based on the sound bytes from and interviews with Simon that we have absorbed throughout the semester and his drive to create The Wire to begin with, I believe that Simon hopes to effect change to some degree. His journalistic style, as described in Lawrence Lanahan’s “Secrets of the City,” informs us that Simon prioritizes fleshing out the complexities of reality. In doing so, viewers are forced to confront central issues plaguing not only Baltimore but urban areas all across the country. It would be unrealistic to conclude that a television series possesses the power to noticeably reduce crime. And it seems unreasonable to view The Wire as a vehicle for criminal reform, in part because I doubt that many of the real-life drug lords on which many of The Wire’s characters are based subscribe to HBO. (Furthermore, Simon conveys that drug trade stems from a complicated interaction of circumstances and motivations, not merely ethical decay. In other words, it is unlikely that individuals of low–or high–socioeconomic status will be compelled to change their behavior simply by realizing the consequences of their actions.) A television series can, however, generate reflection and discussion, one of the first steps toward social change. Perhaps The Wire’s most likely pathway of enacting change is from the top down. After all, as Simon suggests, the forces that reign above the low-income, drug-addled residents of Baltimore, such as police forces and court systems, play just as important of roles as the crime-engaging subjects of institutional control themselves.

  5. The Wire cannot solely enact systematic transformation. Additional texts like the wire may precipitate consciousness and of the travails of criminal urban spaces, however it is what is done with these texts that enact change. It is constituent pragmatism with the use of texts as frameworks for analysis.