Author Archives: jpm12

Our Generation?

After exploring Generation Kill, I wonder if it really does represent our generation (or “the greatest generation”) as Wright claims that it does. When watching the miniseries and reading the book, I couldn’t help but wonder if this generation is significantly different from past ones. While there were more glorified portrayals of soldiers from World War II or Vietnam, I cannot imagine that they were any less crass than the soldiers of First Recon in reality. I would guess that they had similar humor and repetoire within the troops, it was just never shown. They were just as sexually deprived, homophobic, and ready to kill. I realized through Generation Kill that there is a certain attitude that soldiers must develop to fight a war. I feel that Generation Kill is really about that attitude and how different people react to it. I believe, however, that past generations had to adapt in the same way in order to fight.

I do see how our generation is different in terms of technology and media influence. Sure, no one in World War II compared the war to a video game or Black Hawk Down. Yet, while in Iraq, the soldiers are completely detached from the technology that defines our generation. There are no cell phones, computers, or ipods. The only prevalent technology is the video camera, which does turn out to play a big role in the series. Yet, is this enough to really distinguish generation kill from past generations? While I think the miniseries and novel are interesting, I feel that they are flawed in attempting to portray a new generation. Really, this generation’s wartime attitudes are not drastically different from those of the soldiers in the past.

Evan Wright in Generation Kill

I find it interesting that the creators of Generation Kill decided to include the Evan Wright character in the miniseries and that Evan Wright wrote himself into his novel. Compared to the David Simon approach, I like this portrayal. It first helps explain the credibility of Wright’s reporting. We know that he gained trust from the other soldiers (particularly with the MOPP suit incident). But, these friendships also suggest to us that Wright may be bias because he is fond of the soldiers on a personal level and has bonded with them. I think Wright’s character also adds to the situation. Like Bayliss on his first day at Homicide in the pilot, Wright’s naivete allows the viewer to enter the world through him. When he asks a question, the viewer’s inquiries are answered. He allows the miniseries and the novel to explain basic things within the marine world.

On that note, I think the transition from the book to the miniseries is interesting. Watching the first episode and reading the beginning of the book, I noticed that a lot of things that Wright learned through private conversations are converted into public ones. The book does a much better job of explaining where information comes from. For example, the book quotes Fick as discussing his concerns with ROE in private (33). Yet the miniseries has that statement as a public speech. While I like both portrayals, there are clear accuracy questions in the adaptation of the novel.


There are a lot of similarities between the ends of season one and season two of The Wire. Both had a key witness that was compromised. In season one, D’Angelo was ready to absolve himself and come clean. Similarly, Frank Sobotka was ready to turn in the Greeks. Further, both men were inspired to confess because of a recent tragedy. For D’Angelo, that tragedy is the death of Wallace, while for Frank the tragedy is the downfall of Ziggy. Yet both witnesses are silenced by their higher powers. D’Angelo’s mother convinces him to remain loyal and the Greeks murder Frank.
The difference in the two conclusions comes Nick’s confession. The first season case is basically halted by D’Angelo’s silence, and his murder later means that Avon will not be brought to justice. Yet in season two, Nick steps up to confess after Frank dies. Unlike the Barksdale organization, the Greeks do not have familial loyalty to silence their co-conspirators. This allows Nick to turn in the organization and helps the police investigation make a legitimate case. However, the Greeks do successfully flee which ruins the case. In both situations, the case reaches some resolution, but that resolution is unsatisfying legally.
Further, the seasons are different because the Barksdale organization continues, while the port continues to slowly die. This end ties into Simon’s message of the death of industrial cities in Baltimore. As Frank says, “We used to make shit in this country, build shit” (The Wire, Episode 11). While the union used to be profitable, it must turn to the drug trade to stay afloat. This symbolizes a trend away from industry towards a different kind of economy. Season one, however, sent the message that the drug trade continues under Stringer’s strategy and his capitalistic instincts. The similarities and small differences between the conclusions of the two seasons indicate the differing economic trends each represents.

Femininity in The Wire

I find it interesting that the Williams article spends pages describing the masculinity represented on The Wire without ever mentioning femininity or lack there of. While I understand that femininity is perhaps outside the scope of the article, I still think it deserves a mention. Perhaps this point was overlooked because, as the article failed to mention, The Wire portrays very little femininity and fails to create many complex female characters. While George writes of how rich the material is for the male characters, in my opinion, only Kima is well developed. While Kima is a fantastic character, she is the only female cop and she has a pretty masculine demeanor. Kima in many ways adapts to a male world and can not act as a feminine woman (as it turns out, when she does appear like a feminine woman, she gets shot in Season 1). The other female characters are mostly props and sexual objects for the men with some exceptions. In episode 2.4, I was surprised that Beadie’s life was getting fleshed out. Yet, as someone who never wanted to be a police officer and has no idea how to investigate a murder, she still feels like an outsider. While I agree that The Wire does a good job of representing masculinity and race, it creates a world with no legitimate femininity. Most of the women are outside of the operation and sexual objects. The Wire may expose the “bitches” and “hoes” mentality that the drug dealers have, but it does nothing to combat it. While I like certain parts of the show, I am troubled by the problematic portrayal of women.

Intelligent Criminals

I see the controversial subjects that David Simon discusses in his Letter to HBO in the three episodes of The Wire that we watched for tomorrow. There are strong racial, class, and educational biases at work. Particularly, these biases were apparent when the law enforcement worker cracked the pager code. He went through a complex explanation for how to decode the numbers, yet then added that even the dumb drug dealers could use it because it did not involve math. The detectives are in denial that they are being outsmarted by the drug dealers. The team does not even have a picture of Avon Barksdale after weeks of investigation, yet they still seem to think that he is drastically inferior to them. It seems like a lot of these assumptions come from racial and class biases. If this were a war between two industrialized countries, the strategists would be treating the enemy in a strategic, logical way. Yet because the drug dealers are seen as so inferior, the detectives constantly assume they are stupid and incompetent. But if they were, they would not be winning the war as they are in the show. Showing intelligent criminals is quite ground-breaking. Even in Homicide, the detectives were clearly the intellectual ones. The Wire disrupts our view of crime shows and explores the criminals in a way that had never been done before.

Mad Men Bibliography

Handy, Bruce. “Don and Betty’s Paradise Lost.” Vanity Fair September, 2009.

This Vanity Fair article goes behind the scenes in Mad Men. I think that it is really useful because it includes telling anecdotes about Matthew Weiner’s role in every detail of the show. Also, it talks about how Mad Men differs from other shows on television, and the impact of the show on greater society.

Fields, Jackie. “The Mad Men Effect.” People. September 28, 2009.

This brief article talks about the Mad Men effect on fashion. While obviously it is not teh most academic of sources, I think that it is interesting how the show’s look and design has influenced society. I found a couple of articles in this vein which will be useful in proving the unique design of the show and how it impacts society.

Lippert, Barbara. “It’s a Mad, Mad World.” Brandweek, August 17, 2009.

This article is not incredibly useful, but it does discuss the rich design of the show and how that has influenced viewers. It may be useful in describing the show and explaining how people perceive it.

Kukoff, David. Vault Guide to Television Writing Careers. Vault, Inc: New York, 2006.

This book is useful in defining the traditional role of the showrunner. Part of what I hope to argue is about Matthew Weiner’s very detailed role in the series. Defining how the industry views the showrunner will be useful in describing how Weiner deviates.

Creeber, Glen. Serial Television: Big Drama on the Small Screen. British Film Institute Publishing: London, 2004.

This book has a lot of interesting analysis about historical fiction miniseries and the television drama that I think will be useful. It discusses programs more broadly in ways that I will apply to Mad Men.

Stephens, Mitchell. The Rise of the Image, the Fall of the Word. Oxford University Press: New York, 1998.

This book seemed like it would be more helpful than it was. It mostly went on long tangents about the history of images. However, I think there are parts that could be useful. Part of what I want to argue is about Mad Men’s use of design and image, and so I may pull from the analysis of how the image has become more powerful than the word.

Mayer, Vicki, Miranda J. Banks, and John T. Caldwell. Production Studies: Cultural Studies of Media Industries. Routledge: New York, 2009.

This book has a collection of essays about TV production. Most were not that useful. However, there was one by Denise Mann about how the showrunner has also become in charge of creating a brand for the show. I think this could be useful in discussing Matthew Weiner and how the show has developed a very dedicated following.

Games in Clockers

The movie Clockers added several motifs that the book did not really explore too much. One of the motifs that I found interesting was the idea of the world of clocking as a game. The “game” metaphor was literally portrayed through the gangster game that Tyronne plays. As in real life, Strike feeds Tyronne’s interest in the game of gangster. For Tyronne, the moment that he kills Errol breaks his innocence. He then realizes how little fun the world of drugs and guns can be. At the beginning of the film and the book, the world of gangster is also a game to Strike and Victor. In the bar, Victor talks about “My Man” to Strike as if Victor is a part of the game. However, there is no “My Man” and Victor kills Darryl Adams himself. When Victor goes to jail and leaves his family, he realizes that name-dropping is just a part of the game, and regrets his actions. Stirke’s observation of the downfall of both Victor and Tyronne break him. By the end of the film, he leaves Dempsey. For Rocco, homicide work also seems to be a bit of a game. When he is examining Darryl Adam’s body, his snarky and playful remarks take away from the serious nature of murder and investigation. However, his intrigue with the case makes murder real to him again and takes him away from the game. When he suspects that Strike is playing games with him, he is infuriated. All four main characters undergo a transformation that causes them to lose their fascination with the game. Yet, the last scene with the detectives searching another body reveals that the game continues. Even though Strike, Victor, and Tyronne are no longer playing, others are still participating.


I find the character of Strike quite interesting. Strike is young at 19 years, although older than DeAndre in The Corner, yet he seems to have a bit of world experience at the beginning of the book. He is not directly involved in the drug trade yet as he only handles finances, but he seems to understand the way that power works. Yet, unlike perhaps the other drug dealers we have read about, Strike has a very obvious weakness: his speech impediment. Strike’s uncontrollable stuttering presents him as weak to other characters. The exposition of the novel explains that this hurt him in school, and that he had been improving ever since he left. I think that the speech issue is also a  manifestation of other flaws. While Strike seems at least partially confident, his insecurity is apparent in his speech. This insecurity also surfaces when Strike instructs Victor to kill Darryl Adams. Strike seeks Darryl’s death because of petty jealousy, and he does not thoroughly think out the decision. In fact, almost immediately after talking to Victor, Strike begins to have second thoughts. Unlike the other tough-guy drug dealers, Strike cannot hide his fear and nerves. Perhaps Strike reveals that all of the drug dealers have weaknesses, they are just less obvious. Strike’s stuttering demonstrates the flaws and insecurity in his own character, and in the greater world of the drug trade.

Mad Men Paper

I hope to write my term paper on the AMC series “Mad Men.” I am interested in “Mad Men” because it has a very clear auteur, Matthew Weiner, and uses a lot of the HBO style techniques we have talked about. I have not totally decided on my argument but it will likely have to do with “Mad Men” as the epitome of an auteur show. Weiner often runs around controlling every aspect of the show – is there such a thing as too much involvement from one single auteur? Also, “Mad Men” was the first basic cable show to win “Best Drama” at the Emmys, indicating that it was important in the rise of quality cable television. Alternatively, I might make an argument about “Mad Men’s” use of the past to explore present social messages. For example, “Mad Men” exposes many racial, gender, class, and religious tensions from the 1960’s in order to talk about things today. There have now been two instances of rape that, while clearly rape, have raised skepticism in some viewers (ie many people do not consider that they were rape, even though we’re supposedly past the era of the 1960’s). Whichever way I end up taking the essay, I hope to explore the crucial role of “Mad Men” in television history.

Homicide v. The Corner

While reading The Corner, I have been considering the differences between it and Homicide. Obviously, as both are written by David Simon, the writing styles are quite similar. Simon includes his signature long, detailed descriptions and his general world setting paragraphs that begin each section. Yet the tone of the book seems very different. Where Homicide centered on the professional lives of a group of homicide detectives, The Corner discusses the total lives of those involved in the Baltimore drug trade. Homicide is about detectives and The Corner is about a neighborhood. For example, The Corner describes in detail the love life of DeAndre, his relationship with Tyreeka, her pregnancy, and his interest in other women. Homicide described personal issues and relationships, but mostly in passing. The Corner delves into the drama in the young drug dealer’s life.

This difference relates to key thematic differences in the two novels. Both deal with a profession, but the focus of the books is different. The Corner seems to be constantly trying to explain why these people are in the drug trade. In some ways, Simon and Burns assume that there must be some huge force pushing these people into the drug trade. Where Homicide would only briefly explain the detective’s motivations, The Corner is wholly centered on motivation. There are obvious reasons for this focus. Many of the “professionals” in The Corner are young adults, and the Average Joe is not typically drawn into the drug trade. Yet I find the personal style of The Corner interesting compared to the professional atmosphere of Homicide. While both deal with high stress jobs, the law, and justice, The Corner is far more centered on personal lives perhaps as a way to try to make sense of the world of poverty and drugs.