The Institution Always Wins

In Jason Mittell’s article, “All in the Game,” he inserts a quote from David Simon:

The Wire has…resisted the idea that, in the post-modern America, individuals triumph over institutions. The institution is always bigger. It doesn’t tolerate that degree of individuality on any level for any length of time. These moments of epic characterization are inherently false.

The idea seems to be that if a television show chooses to posit characters as the catalytic forces rather than institutions, it is making no attempt at realism. This to me was extremely provocative, and I found myself readily in agreement. When one sees a program like Homicide or a film like Clockers, it’s difficult to mitigate the territory of who is responsible for the deterioration of individuals’ lives and entire communities. One is almost too entangled in the interpersonal relationships and minds of the characters. Yet, I find that The Wire doesn’t necessarily ask its viewers to place blame. Through shying away from an interior character focus, and instead making an attempt at ┬ápresenting the nuances of the larger system, The Wire refuses to propagate the myth that any one person’s individual agency can save them.

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