Sunday, February 3, 2008

Wire analysis, closer to the action

Sudhir Venkatesh has been leading a conversation among gang members in NYC after each Wire episode this season. Venkatesh, you may recall, was profiled in Freakonomics for his ethnographic research on the economics of low-level drug dealers in Chicago (asking the question why so many drug dealers live with their moms). He's a sociologist by training, who writes on underground and illicit urban economics. And he's fearless.

Some highlights from his conversation with gang members:
  • Ambivalent sympathies for Prop Joe. Some disdain his foolish attempts to socialize the drug trade, ignoring the fundamental tenet of dog-eat-dog (embodied by Marlo).
  • Much love for Budgie (Omar's patron). All the gang leaders say they had a Budgie in their lives. Amazingly, his murder seems to hit these guys in a soft spot.
  • They ask Venkatesh who his readers are. Um, me. I wonder what they think of that.
  • They love Omar, while seeming uncomfortable with, even disgusted by his homosexuality. They describe him as the hero of the streets, who will avenge Budgie's murder. But they praise him with guarded slurs. They're torn. Great writing, David Simon and Co.!
Also, some interesting analysis from DeAngelo Starnes, a columnist for EbonyJet and former resident of D.C., "pre-gentrification" (his words).

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