How The Wire Fails to Write Women Into the World That Matters
July 16, 2010 2 Comments
Sophie Jones is so smart that I’m just going to reproduce what she says about women and The Wire here, verbatim, but her whole article is well worth reading:
It’s the program’s instinctive sense of justice that makes it difficult to accept that The Wire has betrayed women, and it’s this that makes the betrayal saddening and important in a way that the inbuilt sexism of most mainstream TV is not. That one of the most progressive TV shows in the medium’s history is also one of the best is deeply heartening. That one of the most progressive TV shows in the medium’s history consistently demonstrates its ignorance of and disinterest in gender politics is utterly depressing. This ignorance almost seems calculated—for every aspect of the program that makes you wish creator David Simon was president, there’s an anti-feminist flipside. Points to The Wire for its tireless emphasis on the circumstances and institutional pressures that make people who they are. Negative points for the encyclopedia of stock female stereotypes the writers lazily peruse whenever the script requires an extra x-chromosome. You want the gold digging girlfriend? You’ve got it—and why not pick up the tyrannical dragon-lady mother or the idealized angelic woman-saviour on the way? The show deserves heartfelt applause for its recognition that activist factions are damaging and artificial, that it is misleading to think about race without considering the economy without taking into account education, and so on. But gender is either excluded from, or a mere footnote to, this sophisticated, expansive worldview. Democracy is at the heart of the program, to the extent that viewers find themselves caring about 20 characters almost equally. But so few of these characters are women, and the female characters that do emerge aren’t at stake. In The Wire, it is boys who are at stake. Women and girls are bit parts in a compelling drama played out by men.