"As true as television gets" : the wire and perceptions of realism
Thesis (M.A.)--Georgetown University, 2010.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. By the end of its five-season run, The Wire was receiving almost universal acclaim from television critics. In particular, reviewers were quick to praise the show's authenticity and frequently invoked words like "true" and "realism." But it remains unclear what exactly these reviewers are trying to say when they use such words. It seems that they are aiming for an idea more complicated than factual accuracy, but beyond that, the terms remain ambiguous. It is also apparent that most of the reviewers are probably not overly familiar with the worlds The Wire represents, whether it be the dealer-controlled street corners or the inner-city classrooms. Thus, the critics' perceptions of realism must have come from somewhere other than their own experiences - somewhere within the text. The goal of this thesis, then, is to determine what attributes of the text make it appear to be "as true as television gets." To that end, the thesis will look at multiple conceptions of televisual realism and apply them to different areas of the text, from its form, to the emotions it elicits, to its treatment of representation. Moreover, all of the chapters will be connected by the argument that the show may have felt particularly realistic to its audiences by offering them something a bit different than the other members of the crime genre.; Chapter three will examine the form of The Wire, arguing that the series makes use of a number of filmic techniques associated with non-fiction filmmaking that few other crime shows have adopted, including the frequent employment of long lenses and a total emphasis on diegetic sound. Additionally, chapter three will demonstrate that The Wire is built on a complex narrative structure rarely seen in mainstream crime television. Chapter four will focus on the emotions that The Wire elicits. More specifically, it will argue that the show's frequent subversion of melodramatic pleasures like catharsis and moral clarity creates a structure of feeling that stresses emotions like outrage, disappointment and dissatisfaction. These feelings are not only rarely seen within the typically melodramatic programs that comprise the bulk of the crime genre, but also may better reflect the nature of the show's content, which deals more with systemic issues than personal ones. Chapter five will explore The Wire's treatment of representation. Here it will be argued that the show not only has more black characters in more major roles than the typical mainstream television show, but also represents a wider range of black experiences and black perspectives.
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