Author Archives: cmorton10

Generation Kill

After watching the first two episodes of Generation Kill, it is easy to see Simon and Burns hand in its creation. Like Homicide, The Corner, and The Wire, Generation Kill critically examines one of America’s most fundamental institutions from the inside out. In this particular case that institution is the United States Military. Like all the shows I mentioned before, Generation Kill is an account of a true story, this particular story stemming from the reports of journalist, Evan Wright.  The show also carries some racial themes, examining the way the Americans view and act towards Iraqis and the different racial groups within the military. The show also utilizes an ensemble cast and refuses to sensationalize its story lines with unnecessary action sequences. It presents a view of  the Military that usually does not make it to tv or movie screens, where soldiers are normal people who don’t always act morally and are sometimes inept.  Even in smaller more specific ways the show reflects the past works of Simon and Burns, such as the way the soldiers call Iraqis “hajis”  similar to the way the cops refer to black criminals as “yos.”

One difference with Generation Kill that I found particularly interesting was that Evan Wright did not write himself out of the book, unlike how Simon does not refer to himself much in Homicide and The Corner. Wright always acknowledges his presence in the story and the ways that the soldiers feel about him and what he is doing.

Interview with David Simon in The Believer

From this weeks readings, I found the interview with David Simon from The Believer most interesting. I was particularly interested with Simon’s comparison between The Wire and the classic Greek tragedies, where he used a metaphor comparing the Greek gods and American postmodern institutions.

Simon points out that in most movies and television today, individuals overcome institutions in some form of cathartic victory. However, in The Wire, like the traditional Greek tragedy, when the Gods are challenged, mortals are struck down. As we learned at the end of our viewings of season 2, stories in The Wire usually end with the protagonists as victims of the institution. I think that the way The Wire so blatantly defies the standards of television serves to make his Simon’s point come off as much more striking.

I was also interested in the part where he is talking about how the Mayor, now the Governor of Maryland, hates the show. Simon states that he asked him if he would prefer if he did the show in another city and he refused. But after the first season he called for the cities agencies to not cooperate with the show. When Simon stated that he would just film the show in Philidelphia about Baltimore the governernor made it clear that if he was going to make the show anyway he might as well get the money that the show would have to pay for in permits.

I thought that was interesting because it kind of exemplifies the type of problems with institutions that Simon fights against in the first place. Even more interesting is that, at the end of the story, Simon does in fact triumph over the institution that faces him. In a way sort, that story sort of works against the point of The Wire that Simon outlines in the article.

Kinder Reading

There was one quote from the Kinder reading that particularly stuck out to me;

“While The Wire is not the first work of crime fiction to perform such a systematic analysis of corruption, it may be the most successful in making it emotionally compelling; for systematics usually demand a critical distance that is incompatible with most forms of character identification. “ (p. 51, Kinder, “Re-Wiring Baltimore”)

I found this quote particularly interesting because it opened up a possible avenue of discussion for my term paper which will be about how Homicide and The Corner were able to find a balance between fiction and nonfiction. I found this quote helpful because it articulated some aspects of the fiction/nonfiction balance of Homicide and The Corner, even though she is talking about the Wire.

As pieces of narrative non-fiction, Homicide and The Corner were really unique because they were successful in constructing an effective systematic analysis of both the police force and the war on drugs respectively, while at the same time eliminating the critical distance usually needed by most writers in order to perform such an analysis. For this reason, we are able to get the best of both worlds. Had Simon chosen to write his books as simple historical accounts or chosen to make his shows documentaries, rather than narratives, they would not, in my opinion, been so emotionally compelling. Simons works were effective and original because their basis on his actual research gives them the credibilityand effectivness in systematic analysis of nonfiction, while their narrative nonfiction format brings us close enough to the characters that we can really feel the humanity and emotional scope only possible in narrative form.

publishing vs flow models

The Kompare readings draw upon the works of Bernard Miege, which describe two models of cultural production relevant to film and television, the flow and the publishing models. The success of home video, DVD, DVR, and other technologies that give viewers the ability to watch film and television at their own discretion, signals viewer’s preferences towards the publishing model, where the viewers have control, rather than the flow model, where viewers are passive. As he points out, home video sale revenues have come to be much greater source of income for the film industry than theatrical revenues.

I think that in any entertainment medium, viewers would rather be active ones, rather than passive ones, and we can see this sentiment manifesting itself in the recent changes across all entertainment industries. However, what Kompare doesn’t discuss is how the internet is becoming a major platform in which this shift may occur. Nowadays, it is becoming easier and easier to obtain all of your entertainment via the internet.

As internet speeds have gotten faster, websites like can operate similarly to DVR’s, giving viewers the ability to watch television shows on their own time, without waiting for a box set, and the ability to skip forward and backward. Furthermore, flat screen televisions have made it simple to watch connect your television to your computer with HD quality, via HDMI cables. To me, it seems that it is only a matter of time before the computer is integrated into the average person’s entertainment system, eliminating the need to have separate CD and DVD players, giving viewers the ability to view, record, and store all of their music, television shows, and films on a single device. As hard drives get better, I imagine it would be easy to get much of this content into small external drives, making the experience even more portable and versatile than discs.

I think it is inevitable because if industries are not on board, it is difficult for them to stop people from accomplishing it themselves illegally. Already, it is fairly easy to find almost any show online right after it first airs or download a film soon after it comes out. succeeds because they offer streaming television in higher quality than illegal sources and also protects them from viruses and spyware that often come along with the illegal sites. At the same time they are able to make money with brief advertisements. I see websites like this becoming more popular as the industry figures out the best ways to make profits off of them.


1. Nick Hornby, “Interview with David Simon.” The Believer. August 2007

An interview with David Simon that traces his career from his beginnings in journalism and discusses the aesthetics of The Wire and his other works.


Oliver Burkeman, “Arrogant? Moi?” The Guardian, Saturday 28 March 2009.

This is another interview with Simon, mostly discussing the wire. I was interested in the parts where Simon discusses his disillusionment with contemporary journalism.


Mark Bowden, “The Angriest Man In Television” The Atlantic, January/February 2008

Yet another interview with Simon. This was interesting because it explicitly references Tom Wolfe and his theories on narrative journalism or “New Journalism” and how Simon fits into that context.


Wolfe, Maria Loukianenko

Maria Loukianenko Wolfe, “That’s Just the Breaks: The Ethics and Representation in Non-Fiction Writing” 2008.

From the abstract:

The purpose of the project was to examine the ethical issues involved in the production and reception of this non-fiction narrative that had transferred real events and people into the public area of communication, through the processes of writing and publishing the memoir.


David Simon, “David Simon’s Testimony at the Future of Journalism Hearing” May 9, 2009

David Simon writes an article on his problems with journalism


Frus, Phyllis, The Politics and Poetics of Journalistic Narrative. New York : Cambridge University Press, 1994

Frus discusses the history of narrative journalism and the responsibility of the observer.


Taylor, Pegi, “Creative Nonfiction” Writer; Feb2002, Vol. 115 Issue 2, p29, 5p, 1 bw

Taylor defines and discusses the history of creative nonfiction.

Spike Lee and Clockers

I must say after watching Clockers, though I think it was a good effort by Lee, it fell short of many of his other works. I do understand this notion that has been lurking around the message board that the film is overly stylized for the subject matter but I can’t decide if I agree with it.

Though I found his stylization was distracting, these techniques were also effective in a number of ways. In the flashback where Rodney recounts the first time he killed someone, the close ups and canted angles, along with the angry music and lack of establishing shots, added an uncanny claustrophobia that complemented the tension of the scene. However, I found that Lee’s signature floating effect was not employed as effectively as he did in other films, like in the 25th hour. Here it seemed to distract me rather added to any sort of feeling to the scene.

I think a part of me rejects Spike Lee’s stylization because I feel like he does it just to get attention. Sometimes I think that Spike Lee overly stylizes his films, not for the sake of making the film better, but to secure his status of auteur, and make sure that any attention the film receives will be in his direction. I feel a heightened sense of this when watching this film because, to me, his stylization feels forced in comparison to some of his other films.

term paper proposal

For my term paper I want to write about how the texts we have studied class, namely Homicide and the Corner, stand in a weird place between fiction and non fiction. I want to write about how these shows, though completely fictional, are based on reality and what happens when real events are the basis for fictional narratives, especially when they deal with the social/political issues that these show discuss.

the corner

This week, I had the pleasure of watching The Corner for the first time and there were definately a few things about the show that stood out to me. Right in the first few moments we see that this is not an ordinary show. The main character Gary is introduced in this interesting faux-documentary style, where Gary talks directly to the camera. This seemed like a strange way to start things off because it took me out of the narrative and made me acknowledge the fact that I was watching a tv show. It would be very interesting if that was the intention of the director from the begininning, as if he was reminding us that even though the story is based on true events, it is still a fictional tv show.

Either way, I found the motif with the cigarette pretty cool, even though it was kind of cheesy. It was an interesting way to show that everyone has their times when they could use a little help from a stranger. But on the corner,  most usually arent in the position to be sharing. The show also does a very good job of making Gary a likeable character. From a writers standpoint, it is pretty impressive to take a character who is a desperate, thieving heroine addict and have us as an audience like him and care about what happens to him.

I also find it interesting how when both these David Simon projects, Homicide and The Corner got adapted to television, they both got this docu-drama handheld camera style, that has since become popular much later. However, after the style had become popular in television, The Wire did away with it and went for a more straightforward style.

HBO and TV as Art

For a long time television was not taken seriously as an art form. Even today, popular media is not taken seriously by many as true art. However, there are a great number of critics now who acknowledge that TV and other popular media can in fact be very productive pieces of art.

To me, the acceptance of TV as a legitimate art form is an inevitable occurrence . All new mediums go through a phase where they struggle with acceptance. For a long time, artists discounted photography as any sort of serious endeavor. But after enough time passed, people were able to develop it’s craft and critics were able to theorize what that craft accomplished, until it became considered a legitimate medium for serious art.

The Anderson reading really just outline’s how television went through this process, but specifically for HBO. However, it is no surprise to me that, for executives, quality shows like the Soprano’s  were developed more out of pragmatism rather than any hunger for a more artful television experience. It was really that HBO needed to come up with a reason to justify monthly fees once the VCR became a household device and showing feature films was not enough. Regardless, it is fortunate for us that HBO shows have consistently been able to show the world that television can have the same narrative intricacy and visual style as feature films and novels.

However, it does say a lot that reality TV and terrible sitcoms like two and a half men still prevail over decent programming. HBO does target a much different type of viewer than network tv; the type of viewer who, as Anderson puts it “have acquired the cultural competence needed to adopt an aesthetic disposition” and those who can afford to pay the monthly bills.

Unfortunately, I think that television as an artistic medium is developing much faster than the cultural competence of the general public and the economic situation is obviously not helping. Hopefully, this will change in coming years.

Characterization in unscripted television

One part of the reading I found particularly interesting was in Jason Mittell’s essay “Telling Television Stories.” I found it interesting where he pointed out that characterization, as in traditional narratives, is still present in unscripted television shows such as news programs, talk shows, and sports programs. I have always been disapointed with how news on television is more of a form of entertainment as opposed to something informative. I feel like this has a lot to do with that because often times the stories with the most entertaining narrative forms will supercede the ones that don’t, regardless of whether they actually contain important information.

However, one  form of characterization in a news show that I actually do like is Stephen Colbert. When the show went on air I was instantly a fan. To have a news caster take on such a far out role and go with it for the entirety of the show is something that was never done before. He adopted a character that satirizes conservative mindsets, while actually illuminating many of the issues in America that actually matter in a very funny way. I must admit, a good part of the show will be rather immature but thats a good thing cause it’s entertaining. Shows like that are what we need more of in order to develop a more informed American public, shows that are at the same time entertaining and intelligent.