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Sunday, March 9, 2008

The End of "The Wire"- Have we become immune to outrage?

The popular HBO show, The Wire ends its run tonight. The creator, David Simon is looking back on his motivation for doing the show and now believes that people are actually indifferent to outrage:

Now, looking back, Simon doesn't believe "The Wire" has changed anything. Instead, he says the days are gone where fiction altered the political landscape, like Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in 1852 or Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" in 1906.

"I actually have lesser expectations for storytelling, even for journalism in modern times," says Simon. "The best journalism and the best storytelling used to outrage people. In these times, people are inured to outrage." MSN

Norman Lear ran into the same issues with All in the Family, Archie Bunker ended up becoming a beloved bigot in some ways as opposed to people noting that he usually lost his arguments.

So is David Simon right? Can works of journalism or fiction spur people to change? Not just the investigative reporter that goes after the fraudulent contractor of builder, but the fundamental change needed to rescue a city like Baltimore from the failures of its institutions:police, labor, politics, schools and the press. I also have to wonder how many people ended up admiring the cold blooded killers in the series and wanting to emulate them as opposed to getting the creator's point. Like the audience for Archie Bunker, when dealing with a television audience, does the audience go as deep looking for symbolism and meaning or are then just entranced with the entertainment value?