The Commodification of Women
in The Wire
Emily Nedvidek
hen The Wire first aired, one of the greatest
criticisms the show received was the lack of
female characters and feminine agency
presented on screen. One might think this problem is
remedied in the second season with the addition of
over fifteen new female characters in the first episode,
but fourteen of these women remain unnamed and
unidentified throughout the entire season. Season
Two opens with Jimmy McNulty pulling a woman’s
body out of the harbor, followed by Officer Beadie
Russell surveying the Baltimore docks and finding a
container filled with the bodies of thirteen women. The
rest of the season follows Russell, McNulty, and the
members of unit headed by Lieutenant Cedric Daniels
as they investigate the deaths of these fourteen women
and, subsequently, the sex trade that brought them to
Baltimore Harbor.
Given the illicit nature of the sex industry and the
The Wire’s ability to explore the interworking of illegal
industries, it seems only reasonable that the show
should turn its attentions toward the sex trade. By
focusing on the sex trade in Baltimore and on a national
scale, The Wire had the potential to create female
characters with agency and importance while exposing
an industry that has attempted to remain underground
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