The Cyclical Nature of Reform and Its
Effect on Interrelated American Systems
Katelyn VanderWeide
t its core, The Wire is a “visual novel,” a term
David Simon coined to describe a sprawling
narrative that takes on implications of race,
gender, socio-economic status and how such attributes
affect the larger system at work (Simon 23). Through
this technique, Simon incites viewers to analyze the
complex tales presented in The Wire and the
implications underlining those dramas. The show
continually challenges the basic realities and
contradictions of modern day America, and in doing so,
the writers rarely spare America’s institutionalized
systems from criticism. Where Season One is a direct
argument against the American drug prohibition,
Season Three focuses on government officials, drug
syndicates, and the thin possibility of reform in these
opposing sectors. In Season One, the police and other
legitimate institutions, such as City Hall, know very little
about Baltimore’s drug trade. Fredric Jameson
acknowledges this, and is quoted saying:
Government enforcers only know the
appearance of the reality, the empirical or
sensory form it takes in daily life, but
nothing about the ultimate structure
which remains too abstract for any single
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