Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Travels with Kevin Part 16: Baltimore , The Wire and John Waters

"Oh, oh, oh woke up today feeling The way I always do, Oh, oh, oh hungry for something that I can't eat Then I hear that beat, The rhythm of town starts calling me down. It's like a message from high above. Oh, oh, oh pulling me out to the smiles and the streets that I love.Good morning Baltimore!"

The above lyrics open the musical Hairspray, which is based on the film of the same title, which was originally written and directed by John Waters.  Waters with a flair for the quirk (I love the original) helped bring his film to the Broadway stage, and then again to theatres in the 2000s.  The song is actually playing in the background as I write this entry.  Baltimore is a unique city within Maryland, often associated with crabs, making numerous hilarious jokes, and a beautiful harbor.  One of the little known facts, which is based in Hairspray is that The Corny Collins Show was a real teenage dance show on WYZT in Baltimore "The Nicest Kids in Town."  Waters was born in Baltimore, and lived with his family in Lutherville, which is suburb of the city, and was the area I stayed.  Waters met best friend Divine who lived in Lutherville as well, and got most of his influence from this area.

While Waters is probably one of the most famous people who draws his influence on his work from Baltimore. another would be David Simon, creator of the cult television series on HBO, The Wire.  David Simon combined his experiences as a police reporter for The Baltimore Sun, and the experience of writer Ed Burns, a former police office to tell the inner workings of the drug world within Baltimore along with the bureaucracy of working as a police officer.  The shows pessimistic tone, which helps add to the realism, came as a result of Simon's problems dealing with NBC and their dislike for the direction of his other series Homicide: Life on the Streets. HBO was the perfect home for this series.

Over my entire week in Baltimore came up several times, with my friend Lindy, and Eric, and it was named the best television series of all time by Entertainment Weekly.  The show is noted as one of, if not the most realistic drama series on television, especially with regard to its subject matter, and the role in which the actual city plays in the show.  One of the best aspects of the series is the way in which the plot intricately takes you along the path of the characters, like a novel you read this series, and follow the show with no flashbacks, or re-tread of story.  This was one of the major problems with attaining a large audience, Simon himself cited the show as being one which could be hard for audiences to follow.

Simon called the series a "a meditation on the death of work and the betrayal of the American working class ... it is a deliberate argument that unencumbered capitalism is not a substitute for social policy; that on its own, without a social compact, raw capitalism is destined to serve the few at the expense of the many."  The series shows the exploitation of the poor, the working class, and mostly black individuals dealing with the lives society has defined for many of them.  This is one of the most brilliant social commentaries on a society today, and the city of Baltimore is a character in the film, which helps added layer of social nature of this show.

No comments: