The Wire and the Democracy of Fiction




The Wire, Fiction, Realism, David Simon, Mise-en-scène


Beyond its oft-praised "realism", The Wire (HBO, 2002-2008) – precisely because of its closeness to non-fiction – explores the modalities and functionalities of fiction and investigates what fiction is and what fiction can do. The series above all reflects on the ethical stakes of fiction-making. In the game it establishes with its non-fiction antecedents, and in its meta-narrative story arc in season 5, the show reflects on the fictional process and on the different media which filter reality to try and represent it. This article analyzes how The Wire explores the moral implications of fiction-making and the different meanings of the term, from fiction as counter-fact, or counter-truth, to fiction as experimentation. Through the case study of the final season, we see how the series plays out its ambivalence toward fictional codes and advocates a mode of critical fictional representation as an alternative to the current, devious modes of safety policy and journalism. This article demonstrates how, by delegating fiction-making to characters as it does, more particularly in season 5, The Wire inscribes itself in what Jacques Rancière calls "fictional democracy".


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How to Cite

Hudelet, A. (2018). The Wire and the Democracy of Fiction. Series - International Journal of TV Serial Narratives, 4(2), 77–89.



Narratives / Aesthetics / Criticism