Episode 1: The Wire Proved that Capitalism is Sort of Like the Dope Game

A scholar explains how dealers from ‘The Wire’ and industry elites are one in the same.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

Producing this episode became personally intriguing when the expert began to use “The Wire” as a springboard to discuss American capitalism.

The show is arguably one of the best portrayals of inner-city America. It placed so many topics right at its intersections. Here’s a little nugget for those who did not watch the series: The show’s most popular character is Omar — a highly respected (and feared) homosexual stick-up bandit that robbed drug dealers both for profit and principle, à la Robin Hood. Omar donned a deeply entrenched scar that ran diagonally from forehead to chin. He wielded his double-barrel shotgun relentlessly but never raised it on anyone who wasn’t “in the game.” Every character in The Wire is just as complex and contributes to a larger narrative about surviving.

The show’s creators, if nothing else, sought to make apparent one truth: The tactics used by Baltimore’s rival crews to sustain their fraction of the city’s drug trade is similar to the practices used by the elite classes of any institution: political or corporate, religious or social. The frustrations felt by those on the come up—be it the hoppers on the street corners or the working class people on Main Street—are the same too.

The series appealed to all kinds of people: intellectuals, policymakers (Google President Obama’s and Attorney General Eric Holder’s reactions), blue-collar workers, dope-boys still in the game, and even nostalgic OG’s. If one were a suburbanite living in Middle America, the inner-workings of each of the institutions explored in The Wire’s five seasons resonated with you, because the need to make money manifests the same everywhere, regardless of one’s race, class or profession.

The series, through the lens of Baltimore’s underserved communities (and the public collectives that that serve them: cops, schools, politicians, media) initiated many conversations about a boatload of under-discussed issues.

{Spoiler ahead.} At the character level, I was conflicted by Stringer Bell’s demise because I thought it was unrealistic that he was not allowed to “cross-over”. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for a gangster to use his dirty money to bankroll a more positive and legal business endeavor. Joe Kennedy Sr., patriarch to the great Kennedy clan, allegedly used the money he got from business deals with people in the mafia to fund his sons’ early political campaigns. Why couldn’t Stringer succeed and why could Kennedy Sr.? The re-allocation of one’s assets from crime to corporate. I wanted that for Stringer. I thought it a well-intentioned venture.

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