Baltimore in The Wire and Los Angeles in The Shield: Urban Landscapes in American Drama Series

Alberto N. García

Abstract


The Shield (FX 2002-08) and The Wire (HBO 2002-08) are two of the most ever critically acclaimed TV-shows and they both can be seen as the finest developed film noir proposals produced in television. The Wire transcends the cop-show genre by offering a multilayered portrait of the whole city of Baltimore: from police work to drug dealing, getting through stevedores’ union corruption, tricks of local politics, problems of the school system and some unethical journalism practices. On the other, The Shield offers a breathtaking cop-show that features in the foreground the moral ambiguity that characterizes the noir genre. Both series display complementary realist strategies (a neorealist aesthetic in The Wire; a cinéma vérité pastiche in The Shield) that highlight the importance of city landscape in their narrative. Baltimore and Los Angeles are portrayed not only as a dangerous and ruined physical places, but are also intertwined with moral and political issues in contemporary cities, such as race, class, political corruption, social disintegration, economical disparities, the limitations of the system of justice, the failure of the American dream and so on. The complex and expanded narrative of The Wire and The Shield, as Dimemberg has written for film noir genre, “remains well attuned to the violently fragmented spaces and times of the late-modern world”. Therefore, this article will focus on how The Wire and The Shield (and some of their TV heirs, such as Southland and Justified) reflect and renew several topics related to the city in the film noir tradition: the sociopolitical effects of showing the ruins of the centripetal industrial metropolis, the inferences of filming in actual places, the dramatic presence of what Augé coined as “no-places”, the bachelardian opposition between home and city, or the streets as an urban jungle where danger lurks in every corner.

Keywords


television studies; landscape; spatial turn; city; The Shield; The Wire

Full Text:

PDF (English)

References


Agger, Gunhild (2013). “The Killing: Urban topographies of a crime.” The Journal of Popular Television 1(2): 235-41. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/jptv.1.2.235_1

Agger, Gunhild (2016). “Nordic Noir—Location, Identity and Emotion.” In Emotions in Contemporary TV Series, edited by Alberto N. García, 134-52. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Allen, Michael (2007). “So Many Different Ways to Tell It: Multi-Platform Storytelling in CSI.” In CSI: Television under the Microscope, edited by Michael Allen, 57-72. London, New York: I.B. Tauris.

Augé, Marc (1995). Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropoly of Supermodernity. London, New York: Verso.

Bachelard, Gaston (1994). The Poetics of Space. Beacon Press Books.

Barber, Stephen (2002). Projected Cities: Cinema and Urban Space. London: Reaktion Books.

Bellafante, Ginia (2008). “The Shield Wraps Up, All the Bills Coming Due.” The New York Times, 25 November 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/26/arts/television/26shie.html?_r=1 (last accessed 25-4-14).

Black, Brian (2000). Petrolia: The Landscape of America’s First Oil Boom. Baltimore, London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Borchard, Kurt (2007). “Las Vegas Mon Amour.” Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies 7(1): 74-96. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1532708605285625

Brown, Simon, and Stacey Abbott (2010). “The Art of Sp(l)atter: Body Horror in Dexter.” In Dexter: Investigating Cutting Edge Television, edited by Douglas L. Howard, 205-20. London, New York: I.B. Tauris.

Byers, Michele (2010). “Neoliberal Dexter?” In Dexter: Investigating Cutting Edge Television, edited by Douglas L. Howard, 143-56. London, New York: I.B. Tauris.

Chopra-Gant, Mike (2007). “The Law of the Father, the Law of the Land: Power, Gender, and Race in The Shield.” Journal of American Studies 41(3): 659-73. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021875807004045

Chopra-Gant, Mike (2012). “‘You Want Me to Lick Your Balls, Daddy?’ Masculinity, Race, and Power in The Shield.” In Interrogating The Shield, edited by Nicholas Ray, 124-44. New York: Syracuse University Press.

Clandfield, Peter (2009). “‘We Ain’t Got No Yard:’ Crime, Development, and Urban Environment.” In The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television, edited by Tiffany Potter and C. W. Marshall, 37-49. New York, London: Continuum.

Clarke, David (ed.) (2005). The Cinematic City. London, New York: Routledge.

Cubitt, Sean (2014). “The Rise of Celtic Noir.” The Conversation. May 27 2014. http://theconversation.com/the-rise-of-the-celtic-noir-27253 (last accessed 20-08-2016).

Dimendberg, Edward (2004). Film Noir and the Spaces of Modernity. Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press.

Ducker, Eric (2006). “The Left Behind. Inside The Wire’s World Of Alienation And Asshole Gods.” The Fader, December 8 2006. http://www.thefader.com/2006/12/08/listening-in-part-iv/ (last accessed 25-1-2010).

Eichner, Susanne, and Anne Marit Waade (2015). “Local Colour in German and Danish Television Drama: Tatort and Bron/Broen.” Global Media Journal 5(1): 1-20.

Ethridge, Blake D (2008). “Baltimore on The Wire: The Tragic Moralism of David Simon.” In It's Not TV. Watching HBO in the Post-Television Era, edited by Marc Leverette, Brian L. Ott and Cara Louise Buckley, 152-64. New York, London: Routledge.

Fielder, Adrian (2001). “Poaching on Public Space: Urban Autonomous Zones in French Banlieue Films.” In Cinema and the City. Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context, edited by Mark Shiel and Tony Fitzmaurice, 270-81. Oxford, Malden: Blackwell Publishers.

García, Alberto N. (2016). “Moral Emotions, Antiheroes and the Limits of Allegiance.” In Emotions in Contemporary TV Series, edited by Alberto N. García, 52-70. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gibb, Jane, and Roger Sabin (2009). “Who Loves Ya, David Simon? Notes Towards Placing The Wire’s Depiction of African-Americans in the Context of American TV Crime Drama.” Dark Matter 4: n.p. http://www.darkmatter101.org/site/2009/05/29/who-loves-ya-david-simon/ (last accessed 27-1-10).

Howard, Douglas L. (2012). “Scenes from the Interrogation Room: Power, Character, Truth, and Justice in The Shield.” In Interrogating The Shield, edited by Nicholas Ray, 105-23. New York: Syracuse University Press.

Kelly, Casey Ryan (2016). “The Toxic Screen: Visions of Petrochemical America in HBO's True Detective (2014).” Communication, Culture & Critique 10(1): 39-57. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/cccr.12148

Krutnik, Frank (1997). “Something More than Night: Tales of the Noir City.” In The Cinematic City, edited by David B. Clarke, 83-109. London, New York: Routledge.

Lerner, David (2012). “Way Down in the Hole: Baltimore as Location and Representation in The Wire.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 29: 213-24. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10509200903120062

Madrigal, Alexis C. (2014). “The Sacrificial Landscape of True Detective.” The Atlantic, 7 March 2014. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/03/the-sacrificial-landscape-of-em-true-detective-em/284302/ (last accessed 9-9-16).

McMillan, Alasdair (2009). “Heroism, Institutions, and the Police Procedural.” In The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television, edited by Tiffany Potter and C. W. Marshall, 50-63. New York, London: Continuum.

Mennel, Barbara (2008). Cities and Cinema. London, New York: Routledge.

Palatinus, David Levente (2009). “The Aesthetics of Violence: Crime as Urban Spectacle in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” Conference presentation. 8th Global Conference Inter-Disciplinary.net, 4-7 May 2009, Budapest, Hungary.

Peacock, Steven (2015). Swedish Crime Fiction: Novel, Film, Television. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pheasant-Kelly, Fran (2016). “Abject Spaces in The Bridge and The Killing: The Post-9/11 City of Nordic Noir.” In The City Since 9/11: Literature, Film, Television, edited by Keith Wilhite, 211-28. Madison, Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

Roberts, Les (2016). “Landscapes in the Frame: Exploring the Hinterlands of the British Procedural Drama.” New Review of Film and Television Studies 14(3): 364-85. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17400309.2016.1189712

Sadler, William J., and Ekaterina V. Haskins (2005). “Metonymy and the Metropolis: Television Show Settings and the Image of New York City.” Journal of Communication Inquiry 29(3): 195-216. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0196859905275971

Sepinwall, Alan (2013). The Revolution was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever. New York: Touchstone.

Sepinwall, Alan, and Matt Zoller Seitz (2016). TV (The Book). Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time. New York: Grand Central Publishing.

Sert, Jose Luis (1944). “The Human Scale in City Planning.” In New Architecture and City Planning: A Symposium, edited by Paul Zucker, 392-412. New York: Philosophical Library.

Sheehan, Helena, and Sheamus Sweeney (2009). “The Wire and the World: Narrative and Metanarrative.” Jump Cut 51: n.p. http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc51.2009/Wire/ (last accessed 20-1-10).

Shiel, Mark (2001). “Cinema and the City in History and Theory.” In Cinema and the City. Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context, edited by Mark

Shiel and Tony Fitzmaurice, 1-18. Oxford, Malden: Blackwell Publishers.

Shiel, Mark (2012). Italian Neorealism: Rebuilding the Cinematic City. New York: Columbia University Press.

Shiel, Mark, and Tony Fitzmaurice (eds.) (2001). Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context. Oxford, Malden: Blackwell Publishers.

Soja, Edward W. (1989). Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. London: Verso.

Speidel, Linda (2009). “‘Thin Line ‘Tween Heaven and Here’ (Bubbles): Real and Imagined Space in The Wire.” Dark Matter 4: n.p. http://www.darkmatter101.org/site/2009/05/29/thin-line-tween-heaven-and-here-bubbles-real-and-imagined-space-in-the-wire/ (last accessed 25-1- 10).

Strate, Lance (2002). “No(rth Jersey) Sense of Place: The Cultural Geography (and media ecology) of The Sopranos.” In This Thing of Ours: Investigating The Sopranos, edited by David Lavery, 178-94. London: Wallflower Press.

The Shield. Al Margen De La Ley: Cuarta Temporada Completa. Created by Shawn Ryan. Sony Pictures, 2008. DVD.

The Shield. Al Margen De La Ley: Primera Temporada Completa. Created by Shawn Ryan. Sony Pictures, 2008. DVD.

The Wire. La Primera Temporada Completa. Created by David Simon. Warner Home Video, 2009. DVD.

Vaage, Margrethe Bruun (2015). The Antihero in American Television. New York: Routledge.

Waade, Anne Marit (2011). “Crime Scenes: Conceptualizing Ystad as Location in the Swedish and the British Wallander TV Crime Series.” Northern Lights: Film & Media Studies Yearbook 9(1): 9-25. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/nl.9.9_1

Warf, Barney, and Santa Arias (eds.) (2008). The Spatial Turn: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. London, New York: Routledge.

Williams, James S. (2008). “The Lost Boys of Baltimore: Beauty and Desire in the hood.” Film Quarterly 62(2): 58-63. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2008.62.2.58

TV Shows cited

(2001-2010)

CSI: Miami (2002-2012)

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000-2015)

CSI: New York (2004-2013)

Dexter (2006-2013)

Justified (2010-2015)

Law and Order (1990-2010)

Lie to Me (2009-2011)

The Mentalist (2008-2015)

Rescue Me (2004-2011)

The Shield (2002–2008)

Southland (2009-2013)

The Sopranos (1999-2007)

True Detective (2014–)

The Wire (2002-2008)




DOI: 10.6092/issn.2421-454X/7144

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2017 Alberto García

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.