‘They Conflated “The Wire” With Reality’
by Gioncarlo Valentine
Published June 13 in The New York Times
Excerpt: I was born and raised in Baltimore. I was in middle school when “The Wire” was made — it filmed near McCulloh Homes and also sometimes near Harlem Park, where my school was located. Back then everybody thought, wow, this is Baltimore’s moment. It was a very exciting experience for the city.
I was too young to watch “The Wire” in middle school. When I saw it in college, I thought the acting was really wonderful. Wendell Pierce, who played Bunk Moreland, is one of my favorite actors, and as a queer person, I thought Michael K. Williams’s Omar was really beautiful — how gentle he was with his partner in contrast to how ferocious he seemed in the world. That kind of stuff was stellar.
But there was very little about the interior life of Baltimore, and little celebration of any aspect of the city. It showed only this flattened idea of Baltimore as: drugs, poverty, criminality, corruption, violence. When you’re watching television, as a Black person, you want to see Blackness rendered with humanity, rendered as you know it in the world. I don’t believe that the show succeeded in showing that.
But I was curious about how the community felt. Who liked it, and why? What has it been like for you 20 years after the show was filmed in your neighborhood? What did “The Wire” do — or not do — for Baltimore?