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Welcome to Baltimore…

“This is Baltimore, gentlemen. The gods will not save you.”

-Bill Rawls

I finished the fourth season of The Wire yesterday. Boy was that depressing. Really depressing. Even my parents, who had been wading in and out as they were going about their weekend business, found it almost soul-destroyingly downbeat. That’s not to say it wasn’t great – just depressing. Anyway, my mom repeatedly stressed that she didn’t believe that anywhere as bad as Baltimore could actually exist. I decided to investigate.

My good friend who spent a few months travelling the United States described Baltimore as one of the most striking cities he ever visited. Apparently it was possible to transition from the rich side of town to the poor side of town without even realising. Drug dealers were everywhere, albeit not as blatently as in the show. The impoverished and the suffering where not strictly ghettoised – though you could argue that the whole community was a ghetto.

I found this insightful piece written by a former mayor of the city. He observes that many of the characters on all sides (the politics, the police force, the drugs trade) are based on real individuals – a fact backed up by the commentaries on the DVD sets. He does protest that the higher end of Baltimore does not get a look-in on the show, but he seems to concede the reality of the grim urban landscape presented week-after-week. He does suggest that it is not a problem unique to Baltimore, but I’m not sure that makes it any less depressing.

Equally downbeat, real life criminals apparently think that the gangland culture on the show is, if anything, too soft. That’s an incredibly depressing thought to end this article on, but, hey, we are talking about The Wire.

Is it a depressing show? Undoubtedly. Will I be back for the fifth and final season? Undeniably.

2 Responses

  1. Baltimore’s high ends of town more than make up for the dregs. As a person who lived in Maryland for 13 years I will say however you don’t want to be anywhere near the city after 10.

    • Yep, I think the Mayor said the same thing in a Guardian interview. The show doesn’t show the culture or the museums or even the city centre, but it’s still a rough city.

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