Assignment

Assignment: The Wire Blog
GRID 3306: Justice
Dr. Andrew Moore & Dr. Christine Cornell


HBO’s The Wire (2002-2008) is one of the best contemporary examinations of the urban experiment. Set in modern-day Baltimore, one front in America’s long-standing “War on Drugs,” The Wire asks us to consider the kinds of justice available to us in our current political and economic climate. We will be watching the third season of the series, which will raise a variety of questions relevant to our study of justice, including:

  • How might the law actually prevent us from achieving just ends?
  • If all human legal systems are necessarily flawed, are we doomed to live in communities that are, at least periodically, unjust?
  • How does a history of racial discrimination and persistent social inequality complicate our ability to establish just communities in the 21st century?
  • If a law is ultimately unenforceable, should we still try to enforce it?
  • Is there justice among thieves (or drug dealers)?
  • How and why can we tell the difference between a good law and a bad law?

Assignment

In mid-November we’ll spend a couple of classes discussing The Wire as a group. Before then, we’ll be discussing the show online in the form a class blog. For your convenience, we’ll be screening episodes of the show, one or two at a time, on Friday afternoons at 2:30 in HCH 5 starting September 10. Attendance at these screenings is not mandatory, but you will have to find some way to watch the show.

Over the course of the semester, you will each write one blog post on a specified episode of The Wire (see schedule). Your post will not be very long, only 500-750 words. It need not be as carefully structured as a formal essay; however, you should strive to produce a thoughtful reflection on the material.

For example, you might want to draw connections between the episode under discussion and other texts we’ve studied in class; you could identify how your episode advances some of The Wire’s broader themes. Ask yourself if the show has an argument about justice, or if it is merely a dramatization of various legal, moral, and political crises? In this kind of assignment, some of you may find it more appropriate to pose questions rather than make arguments, which is fine, so long as your questions are specific and insightful. You should also feel free to draw connections between your arguments and those made in previous posts by your classmates. Have any of their insights helped you better understand the show’s examination of justice?

Remember that you are being graded on this assignment. Grammar still counts, so proofread before you post! After you have posted your response, I will e-mail you feedback and a grade within a couple of weeks.

A couple of cautionary notes:

Resist the temptation to write like a movie reviewer. You should not use this assignment to critique the acting, or to discuss how much you enjoy or despise watching the show. You are analyzing the interplay of plot, character, theme, and style in an attempt to determine what The Wire can tell us about justice. How much you like or dislike a text is only very rarely relevant to your analysis in a formal essay. The same applies here.

Please note: plot summary is absolutely unacceptable! Your assignment is not to tell us what happened in the episode, but to engage with this text as you would with a play, a film, a novel, or a dialogue.

Our hope is that this blog will function as a parallel conversation outside of the classroom, one that will deepen and enrich our understanding of justice. You are encouraged to read the posts by your classmates and to make comments on their observations.

Happy blogging!
Dr. Andrew Moore

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