Why we're teaching 'The Wire' at Harvard
To D'Angelo, the formal labor market is fundamentally unfair. People are not rewarded according to their true worth, and powerful institutions regularly exploit those with less power. Social inequality is the inevitable result -- the McNugget inventor doesn't get his due. "It ain't about right. It's about money," D'Angelo tells the young dealers.
"The Wire," which depicted inner-city Baltimore over five seasons on HBO, shows ordinary people making sense of their world. Its complex characters on both sides of the law defy simplistic moral distinctions. Critics loved it. Its fans hung on every episode. We think it is more than just excellent television. Impressed by its treatment of complex issues, we developed a course at Harvard drawing on the show's portrayal of fundamental sociological principles connected to urban inequality. Our seminar was designed for 30 students; four times that many showed up for the first class last week.