Friday, December 21, 2007

The Wire

We started watching "The Wire" (Season 1), recently. I've heard nothing but glowing reviews about this show, and since I grew up slinging crack in the 'hood with my homeys, I thought I'd check it out. (Editors note: for "slinging crack" read "feeding chickens", for " 'hood" read "barren tundra of central Wisconsin", and for "homeys" read "dog").

Quick premise of the show: good cop with bad attitude gets special assignment to take down new-style drug lord who runs a tight crew and so far hasn't been caught for anything. Wait, that's the plot of American Gangster. Well, this is the T.V. version, with different names and fewer afros.

So far, the show is good. Not as great as the reviews made it out to be, but to be fair, I've been told that it's the second season that really shines. I was thinking about the show, though, and I think the #1 element that makes the show good is the language. The dialogue is snappy - not quite up to 'West Wing' standards for both speed and wit, but high quality nonetheless. But more than the dialogue, what really stands out is the artful use of foul language.

This is not just curse-word carpet-bombing (e.g. Sam Kinnison). This is swearing that just ripples out in the normal course of conversation. You've got to believe that these cops and drug dealers really do talk like this. Why do you believe? Because you talk like that. They swear at the right times, with the right inflections. They swear because they're not supposed to be literature majors, but cops and drug dealers.

There is a scene in one of the first episodes where McNulty and Bunk (the irascible cop and his smooth partner) visit a crime scene to recreate what happened. The scene takes maybe 5 minutes. At about the 2 minute mark, Kirstin and I realize that the only words spoken so far in the scene have been f*$& or some variant thereof. We lean forward, expectantly, like we're watching someone walk a tightrope. "Can they do it? Can they make it through?" And for the next three minutes, these two cops say nothing but f#*$ and the myriad permutations of f&^@ that you all know and love. Five straight minutes. They never raised their voices. The best part was that in the context of the scene, "f@&$" was always the exact right word. Brilliant.

This whole experience makes me realize how much I enjoy a good curse. I mean, when applied correctly, a swear word can be a thing of art. If you swear too much, it's crude. If you don't swear at all, then you've got something shoved too far up there.

At this point my Mom is shaking her head and wondering how I ended up this way. I'm sure my potty mouth has got to be on her top five list of things she wishes she could have changed in my youth.* She had no chance, of course (have you met my dad?). But never underestimate the power of the Iron Law of Motherhood: "I you can find a way to blame yourself, do so." **

So rather than continuing to ramble on about my particular fondness for a well-crafted f-bomb, let me wrap up by saying:

Happy F-ing Holidays

* The others, FYI, are (in no particular order): not liking vegetables, not going to church, not tucking in my shirt, and an inability to repress sarcasm.
** The Iron Law of Fatherhood, in contrast, reads: "Keep your children out of jail and/or strip clubs as much as possible."


Diane said...

I don't care about you is obviously too late for any vocabulary redemption. (Did you know your Dad was called "Vulgar V" in college)

But I think you have to consider if you want my two cutie-pies to have such potty-mouths as yours. Their best interests will cause you use swear/curse words judiciously.

Love Mom

PS: How do we know that XXX & OOO means hugs and kisses and other punctuation means bad stuff?

Berna said...

Man, do I love the Wire. I didn't love it at first, but by the end of the first season I was hooked. I think it takes a while to get into the groove of the characters. But, the subsequent seasons are even better. The writing is fantastic. And the sociologist in me loves how they address different themes/institutions in each season.