March 15, 2011 1 Comment
As everyone knows, The Wire – which was essentially a fully-KKK-compatible horror series about inner-city black behavior**, is the SWPLs’ officially-designated Best TV Show Of All Time. This largely owes to the fact that, by providing a comfortable/safe way of watching fictional unpleasant black people up close, it afforded them a weekly opportunity to prove they weren’t racist. That’s what makes it so interesting that the heirs apparent to The Wire, the shows that fill the same cultural space it occupied, seem to be about redneck drug-related organized crime instead of black drug-related organized crime. This way is more convenient I suppose, as the SWPLs watching don’t even have to pretend to be interested in black people anymore. (Which must have been exhausting, in retrospect; I’m rather amazed they kept it up for as long as they did.) But this only raises the question, why are they so interested in rednecks?
On the West Coast you’ve got Sons of Anarchy, a grainy, melodramatic re-enactment of Hamlet among biker gangs starring the ‘Beast’ from Beauty and the Beast, and Peggy Bundy, and some other hey-(s)he-looks-familiar types. And in the Southeast there’s Justified, the more-conventional-on-paper cop show with Timothy Olyphant as a prodigal-son-returned dredging up weekly ghosts among the modern-day moonshining hicks of Kentucky. Not surprisingly, these are two of my favorite dramas on TV. Correction, they are the only dramas I’d even bother to watch, at least until Breaking Bad comes back.
Maybe it’s more appropriate to consider them as descendants of Deadwood. Both feature ex-Deadwood actors and have similar themes of law-construction amongst frontier outlaws. But whatever the case, add in Sopranos and we seem to keep seeing the same themes recur amongst our trendy SWPL cable TV series: family/tribalism, honor cultures vs. written law, and the parallel society that springs up around contraband. In particular, that last.
Without drug prohibition, much of the action on these shows would make little sense. Ditto The Wire and Breaking Bad and half of The Sopranos. Probably, the true precursor to all of these shows is The Untouchables (the original TV show), but never having seen it, I wouldn’t know.
Essentially, it seems as if prohibition of whatever sort sprouts and sustains a romantic, clannish underclass. And, in our stories, we like to go slumming with them. And I gotta admit, it can be danged entertaining entertainment. So, that’s one of the benefits of prohibition. But they never talk about that, when adding up the costs, do they? Lazy.
**As usual when I write seemingly-disparagingly about The Wire, I need to add the disclaimer that I actually really liked The Wire and watched every episode. Well, at least through season 4.