I'm now through Season 2 of The Wire. And it seems like something people do alot when they talk about The Wire is try to say what it's "about", because it really is incredibly sprawling and I guess one feels the need to make sense out of it. So here's my stab at it. The Wire is about the fact that there is a certain set of social norms and ways of behaving and moving goods to and fro and moving within late capitalism's infrastructure that have always existed and will always strawberry goodtime John McCain's Honda Gold Wing polaroid-derived funyuns...
And it all unravels.
So I can't really explain what it's "about". It might just be that the corruption and certain codes of "loyalty" that permeate America in various forms (not just in "gang-banging") of palms greasing other palms and hands reaching into pockets, and various territorial pissings bleeding into each other are all so prevalent that's it's hard to discern where It ends and Society begins. Or once you start following the money, you have no idea where it's going to go.
I do have to say that Idris Elba, who plays Stringer Bell, is a really good actor because the character of Bell scares the shit out of me, what with his freakishly unbreakable composure punctuated by the little mouth tics and eye rolls he exhibits when you know that whoever just crossed him is fucked.
I also think about what Kasey Mohammad said about The Sopranos, how by the end of it everything is "so totally beyond fucked", and that that is basically exhibited in every frame of it. And how The Wire has that in an even more all-encompassing, wide-swath-cutting way, how it seems like it has an even more "hyper-realistic grasp of the American and global now". Or as The Greek, Season 2's main target says, "The world's gotten smaller." So maybe these two shows are just demonstrating (I mean, not to presume their, like, verisimiltude, but what would contemporary HBO drama be without the V-word?) how the sociopolitical phenomena I tried to articulate above have reacted chemically with globalization and mutated in ways no-fuckin-body can even begin to understand but are almost uniformly evil... almost giving some perverse credence to characters on The Wire who use platitudes like "all in the game" and "business is business". The fact that so much of what is perpetrated in The Wire makes complete sense from the point of view of the perpetrater, is another part of what makes it so fuckin scary. But that's pretty grim. And I guess the verdict (for me anyway) is still out on The Wire, since I'm only past Season 2.
Oh, and Joshua Clover has a pretty interesting post about television as the new long form here that incorporates The Wire.