The Wire 101: Best Class Ever?

What Women Really Think
Nov. 2 2009 12:56 PM

The Wire 101: Best Class Ever?


HBO’s critically acclaimed show about the gritty, druggy streets of Baltimore just received some lofty Ivy League accolades. Next year, Harvard University is planning to offer a class on The Wire , which, according to Harvard professor William J. Wilson, "has done more to enhance our understanding of the systemic urban inequality that constrains the lives of the poor than any published study."


I imagine some parents balking at the idea of shelling out $40,000 a year to fund a semester of TV-watching, but I’m all for televisual learning, especially when it comes to The Wire . Specifically because the show seems deliberately set up to be as much urban poverty screed as it is entertainment: It offers a broad, realistic view of urban detriment without turning the dark underbelly of Body-more, Murdaland into your everyday, sensationalist crime porn (ahem, CSI , Law & Order ). The criminal characters are as complex as any of the detectives, and more often than not the real perp is the larger system that sucks up the poor and spews them out as ground-level pawns in an impossible-to-climb crime pyramid. The good guys, too, are imperfect; McNulty is essentially a human metaphor for pyrrhic victory, simultaneously drowning himself in whiskey as he wins battles against the infinite criminal network.

The Crimson article announcing the new course also points out that Sonja Sohn, the actress who plays Kima on the show, has set up a nonprofit organization called ReWired for Change intended to educate and offer options to underprivileged Baltimore youth. This fact gets at what is probably the show’s greatest success-and definitely a reason why it's worth studying-it has intentionally, and with impressive finesse, pushed urban poverty, an issue that no one could bother themselves to be concerned about five years ago, back into the limelight.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.