Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On The Wire: Melodrama and Expecting Better

I originally came across this link from the Los Angeles Review of Books through the MediaREDEF daily email newsletter. Since reading the review and the thematic ideas presented in On The Wire by Linda Williams, I've been consumed with thoughts about how this notion of melodrama fits with a broader view of things. Quoting from the review,
Melodrama, on the other hand, is, again, a liberal, democratic mode, in which suffering is presented as unnecessary if only the authorities, and indeed the viewers, would commit to change.
We started watching The Wire several weeks ago, not long after Amazon Prime began offering HBO series on their unlimited viewing options. As you're probably aware, it's one of those shows that critics always rave about. The critical reviews are so passionate, it sometimes leaves you feeling like you should probably avoid the show just on principle -- at least, that's sort of where we were with it. More like, not something we were going to seek out. But when it fell in our lap and we opened up to watching it, we've become absorbed.

But that original sense of skepticism runs deep, and it often leave me with a desire to avoid critics ranting about The Wire. So the link to this review wasn't one of the first things that I clicked from that email.

“melodrama always offers the contrast between how things are and how they could be, or should be.”
This isn't simply a theme in The Wire, it's a design theme, a Silicon Valley theme.
The Wire does not aristocratically call for an acceptance of the war on drugs or racism as inevitabilities to which its characters must resign themselves. Rather, it demands moral commitment and social transformation even as it demonstrates the power and intractability of institutional barriers to change.
This is the grand struggle, envisioning a better world, then striving to make that world a reality. This is also the dream of work life in Silicon Valley -- that we don't have to accept the status quo, that we don't have to absorbed by the machine and made a part of a mindless bureaucratic structure -- we expect better.

We expect better. We expect better from the people around us. We expect better from the people and the businesses that we work with. We expect better for the world. 

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