President Obama has long made it known that HBO’s The Wire is one of his favorite television dramas for the intelligent, layered manner in which it depicts our country’s war on drugs through the lens of west Baltimore. As a community organizer in Chicago, he ran into many of the same issues that the show’s creator David Simon first encountered as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. The two men sat down at the White House this week to discuss some of those topics, including the heavy price we pay for the war on drugs, and the human cost of a punitive legal justice system that targets poor urban communities.
“Omar, by the way, is my favorite character,” Obama told Simon, “but part of what your show depicted is also that there’s a generational element to this. So you’ve got entire generations of men being locked up, which means an entire generation of boys either grow up without a dad, or they’re seeing him in prison.”
He went on to praise Simon for the way The Wire transcended the one-dimensional way that drug-plagued neighborhoods are depicted in media.
“Part of the challenge is going to be making sure, number one, that we humanize what so often on the local news is just a bunch of shadowy characters,” he said, “and tell their stories. That’s where the work you’ve done has been so important.”
Watch the full 12-minute discussion here: