Postmodernity and the Complexity of
The Wire
Georgia Parent
he renowned series The Wire, created by David
Simon, offers a compelling application of
Jacques Lyotard’s articulation of postmodernity,
meaning that it invites us to reject the traditional grand
narrative of America’s TV history. A postmodern
mindset enables The Wire to transcend its medium as
a television show and become a relatable platform for
discussion on the complexity of human nature.
Characters are no longer labeled as hero or villain but
are judged for their individual choices. As Rafael
Alvarez writes in The Wire: Truth Be Told, “Just
beneath the drama, The Wire is making a case for the
motivations of people trying to get by in a society in
which indifferent institutions have more rights than
human beings” (46). The police force, the drug trade,
and the law are not working in ways consistent with
their preconditioned stereotypes. In the microcosm of
Baltimore that The Wire portrays, the police force is
more concerned with moving up in the ranks than
spending time and money working crimes that are
more difficult to solve. The drug trade is not about the
drugs but, rather, the respect between participants and
the pursuit of prosperity. When the institution is not
founded upon moral principles, the subjects within the
institution are no longer confined to the stereotypical
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