The Wire Final Season
Jeff and David,
I appreciate you letting me stop by the clubhouse. I need the company, because it's been a tough couple of weeks for the gays. First, smoking killed Omar—after all, Kenard wouldn't have had a clean shot if Omar hadn't been so focused on his soft pack—then Michael shot Snoop. After years in which The Wire gave us more gay characters than all of the networks combined—and mostly black gay characters at that—Kima is the only homosexual left standing. (I refuse to treat Rawls' preposterous Season 3 gay-bar cameo as anything more than a red herring.)
David, yesterday you wondered if Snoop had ever been "explicitly identified as gay." Like all Marlo's people, she kept her private life on the down low, but in the final episode of Season 4, when Bunk said he was "thinking about some pussy," she told him, "Me, too." I'm pretty sure she wasn't talking about a domestic shorthair.
Snoop was the first convincing butch lesbian on television—a no-apologies, cross-dressing bull dyke. I wonder if Felicia Pearson will ever work again. I know an off-Broadway show that could desperately use her butch swagger, but her voice is too small for theater, and she's too street even for that last refuge of Wire actors, Law and Order. (I've spotted Michael, Clay Davis, Daniels, and Bubbles recently.)
There have always been complaints that The Wire's writers don't do well by the women on the show, but for me Kima Greggs has always been a credible—and likable—character. I was sorry when she broke up with Cheryl—no more make-out scenes—but also because the relationship always convinced: Cheryl's annoyance that Kima should go back on the streets in Season 2 after she almost died in Season 1 was understandable, but so was Kima's frustration at being smothered. The tension between them when Cheryl wanted a baby and Kima didn't could happen in any relationship, as could the painful awkwardness of maintaining family ties after a breakup. Kima's boozing and womanizing in Season 3 wasn't as believable, but the show's writers love nothing more than parallelism, and they needed Kima to keep McNulty company on his descent to hell. She might not be ready for family life yet—she failed the IKEA test—but she seems to know herself better now: still not ready to settle down but forging "a connect" with Cheryl's son. Snitching on McNulty, as I see it, is just another stop on her path to maturity.
And, of course, there was Omar. He had three gorgeous boyfriends—Brandon, Dante, and Renaldo—whom he loved, body and soul. He even put together his own LGBT version of the James gang. (When Tosha was killed during a robbery in Season 3, her lover Kimmy's grief was, weirdly, a joy to witness.) We homosexuals just don't get to see this stuff on television.
Unlike The L Word, The Wire never presented a glamorous fantasy of beautiful people in gorgeous clothes. Unlike 'tween shows like South of Nowhere, the characters had more pressing problems than mean moms. And unlike the few shows on network television that manage to include gay characters, there were more than two of them on The Wire.
So, thanks, Wire writers. Just promise me you'll never mention Rawls' secret gay life again.
June Thomas is a Slate culture critic. Follow her on Twitter.