Apropos of angry

As I was stumbling through the links to the links to the links, I read this Rolling Stone interview for the first time.

Yeah, it’s over a year old but there’s not a blogger at this joint that doesn’t think about New Orleans every single day. Indeed, it’s part of the glue that brought this particularly various happy few together. I also think it’s relevant to the entire ongoing discussion here and elsewhere, about the show, about the media, about America, about all the chasms we look at each other across.

“In a lot of ways, New Orleans is Baltimore but it can carry a tune. I thought Katrina was literally America having to pause for a moment and contemplate the other America that somehow, tragically, Americans forgot. It’s like America looking across the chasm saying, “Oh, are you still here? Oh, and you’re wet. And you’re angry.”

Talking With the Creator of One of TV’s Best and Smartest Shows

David Simon gives a preview of “The Wire” Season Five, the scoop on why the mayor of Baltimore hates his guts and more

SEAN WOODSPosted Sep 25, 2006 1:10 PM

At HBO, do you compete with David Chase (The Sopranos) and David Milch (Deadwood)?There’s a joke around HBO that you can’t get a show unless you’re named David. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t watch those shows, I mean every now and then I’ll catch an episode of Deadwood, or an episode of the Sopranos. I’m hoarding the DVD sets and I’ll watch it after I finish The Wire. I don’t want to have anything in my head, because I’m scared, those guys are good. I don’t even want to unintentionally echo them.
You’ve taken some shots from the mayor of Baltimore . . . and some recent study said David Simon’s shows are fucking up the image of Baltimore. How do you respond?
I read that in The Baltimore Sun, and I called up City Hall, and asked if this is true . . . But it turned out the story was sort of manufactured by the Sun and the response from the city has been “no, no, no, that’s not what we found, don’t worry about it.” But I was worried about it. I felt bad, I live there. I don’t live anywhere else. I live in Baltimore City, I don’t even live in the county. I live in the city.Sounds like the Mayor of Baltimore, Martin O’Malley, might not be a fan . . .

The truth is, after seeing the first season, the mayor was not happy and he called up very irate. He said he wanted to be out of The Wire business. And I reminded him, gently, that before I even turned the pilot in to HBO, I had lunch with him. I had a conversation with him and his chief of staff and I said, “I’m doing this show, it’s very down on the drug war. It’s very dark about the abilities of Americans to solve our urban problems. You have had two bites of my apple with Homicide . . . and if you want me to film this somewhere else, I will. It’s not a problem — there are other cities I can shoot in.” And the mayor said unequivocally, “No, shoot it here.”

So we did, and after he saw it I caught myself in this other conversation with him, where he wanted to not renew our permits. I said, “I’ll move after season two and we’ll shoot in Philadelphia.” And there was this pause and he said, “If you shoot it in Philadelphia, will they be Philly cops and will it be about Philadelphia?” I said, “No, McNulty’s a Baltimore City detective now. How can I change that? I’m stuck and you’re stuck.” And he said, “So you’d film it in Philadelphia and they’d get the money but it would still be about Baltimore?”

I said yeah, and there was another long pause and he said, “We will reconsider your request for permits,” and he hung up on me. Our permits were approved and since that moment, the city has been entirely professional. I have to credit mayor Martin O’Malley. He hates the show, he hates my guts — he’s perfectly entitled. If I were the mayor, I would hate my guts and hate the show too, but my job isn’t his job and his job’s not my job, and given those realities, since that one pregnant moment, he and Baltimore City have been entirely professional throughout.

Katrina laid bare much of what you have written about on the show. Were you surprised by that?

In a lot of ways, New Orleans is Baltimore but it can carry a tune. I thought Katrina was literally America having to pause for a moment and contemplate the other America that somehow, tragically, Americans forgot. It’s like America looking across the chasm saying, “Oh, are you still here? Oh, and you’re wet. And you’re angry.”

I though Spike Lee’s documentary was great . . . I was angry when Katrina happened, and then I was angry for a long time afterwards, and then I stopped being angry because there was other shit going on. But I’m as angry now after watching the documentary, as I was when Katrina was happening. When Bush has to take the plane down to 8,000 feet so he can get a good look, and he says, “It must be twice as bad on ground.” Twice? You think? Twice? Did you read a piece that E.L. [Doctorow] wrote?

No . . .

Doctorow wrote a column for the East Hampton paper, and somebody picked it up and went around the country. I was sent it on e-mail. Doctorow basically said this son of a bitch can’t feel. It was an assault on the president’s soul, and it was absolute effrontery to journalism, but Doctrow’s truth couldn’t be beat. Bush cannot feel. Bush can’t say the shit he says, he can’t do the things he does, and feel.

Do you worry that Bush represents a lot of Americans? That we’ve lost something as a people?

There are people living in Baltimore County who haven’t been downtown in ten years. Or twenty years.

Is that fear?

That’s no interest. Fear in a different race.

Do you think racism is a reason The Wire doesn’t get the ratings that it might?

I’m not saying racism. I’m saying race. There are people who, when they turn on the television set, they see that many African-American faces, talking and acting and staring back at them, and demanding their attention, they pick up the remote and they change the channel thinking, “This is not my show, this is somebody else’s story.” This last season of The Wire almost didn’t get made because I was squeezed between a fanciful and well-done story about four beautiful women bored to shit on their suburban court and fucking their way through episodes and an American gladiator sport that’s enjoyed to a national obsession.

What’s The Wire‘s fifth season going to be about?

For the last theme in the show, we want to address the mass media. We’re really going to examine the media culture and not in that stupid way where it’s just a hungry pack of hounds thrusting microphones, if you’ve ever been a reporter, you know it’s so much more subtle and nuanced than that. Sensationalism is not the problem. Attention Deficit Disorder might be. But everybody picks the low end of journalism as if that’s the problem, my fear is that there’s no high end anymore. There’s not a lot of huge intellects running media organizations and those that are, are preoccupied with shit that doesn’t matter.

So what questions will the last season be asking?

Why is it that it’s so hard for everyone to focus on these problems? What are we paying attention to? What gets our focus, and what doesn’t? And why? The Wire spends a lot of time pointing its finger at this institution and that institution, and deconstructing a lot of the dysfunction slice by slice. But the last finger to point is at our selves. So to quote the great line from Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” That’s kind of where we’re going with the last season. If this is really what ails us, and if this is really what needs to be addressed, where the fuck are our heads at as a people?

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5 Comments

  1. Clicked on that Rolling Stone site and an ad there tried to push a virus .exe down to my machine.

    Mother fuck Rolling Stone, Wenner, Fong-Torres, Christgau, and every one of those lame irrelevant fucks. (Lester Bangs excluded, God rest his soul.) Steal the whole article and post it here if it’s that good.

  2. Mother fuck Rolling Stone, Wenner, Fong-Torres, Christgau, and every one of those lame irrelevant fucks. (Lester Bangs excluded, God rest his soul.)

    that vein above your eye is starting to twitch again…..

    Steal the whole article and post it here if it’s that good.

    Done. But only because you asked so nice… : )

  3. Thought I’d seen that before…like a year and a half ago: http://ashleymorris.typepad.com/ashley_morris_the_blog/2006/09/david_simon_on_.html

  4. oops. Well, what’s a little cannibalism between friends?

  5. That’s because Ashley is The Fucking Man.

    Thanks for posting, V Tx.


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