Rapping Up The Wire and the Limits of Plot Summary

Curator's Note

What interests me most about this video, a music video "rap-up" produced by HBO to promote the complete DVD set of The Wire, is how little I like it. The Wire is one of my all-time favorite texts of any medium, and I typically enjoy fanvids that remix a beloved series, especially for the flood of memories that they trigger. Yet this video leaves me cold.

 

I think it points to a key difference between the storytelling model of the plot recap offered by this video, and the narrative pleasures of the series itself. Watching the "rap-up" does make me remember some of what happened in the series, but not how it happened. The Wire is not really about what events unfold, who gets got, and the like. Rather, the show is all about the texture of the world depicted, the little moments of interaction or expression that speak to both the constraints and possibilities of life in Baltimore. Sure, we care about how the season 3 conflict between Avon and Stringer plays out, but what I remember from that storyline is their conversation on the balcony, the glances they give each other, and different ways each tries to play the game. The Wire, more than any other serial I can think of, is much more about the story’s process and procedures, not the product and outcome.

 

I looked for fan videos that better capture the feel, texture, and processes that make The Wire a rich narrative world, but found none in my YouTube browsing. And then it dawned on me - The Wire contains its own embedded vids, via the closing montage sequences that serve as a codas to each season. While not remixing per se, these montages convey a sense of the larger mosaic of Baltimore that formed the basis of each season’s narrative, as well as triggering those moments of character recognition and memory that are unique to the long-form mode of serialized storytelling. Perhaps such catalogs of urban texture and lived moments might not serve to market the DVD like this music video, but they do give us fans a better sense of why we love the show, which in the end might be the greatest marketing tactic of all.

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