Why Professors Use ‘The Wire’s’ Stringer Bell To Teach Students
Given the fact that “The Wire” is one of the greatest shows of all time, we’re still benefiting from some of the lessons that Baltimore’s finest gave us.
About Stringer Bell
Russell “Stringer” Bell is a fictional character in “The Wire,” played by Idris Elba. He was a secondary antagonist for seasons 1 and 2, later being the main antagonist for the third season. In the criminal world of early 2000s Baltimore, Bell serves as drug kingpin Avon Barksdale’s second-in-command and assumes direct control of the Barksdale Organization during Avon’s imprisonment. Bell is an extremely intelligent man and a natural leader but shuns the flamboyance of the likes of Avon for ruthless pragmatism and terse professionalism.
He attends economics classes at Baltimore City Community College and maintains a personal library, including a copy of Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.” He attempts to legitimize the Barksdale Organization and insulates himself from direct criminality through money laundering and investments in housing development, aided by his ability to influence politicians by buying their loyalties.
The media scholars offering courses on “The Wire” treat the show differently. They’re quick to point out the show’s impressive verisimilitude, and they’re happy, they say, to see the show being studied across academic disciplines. But to these thinkers, treating the show simply as a sneak peek into the intricacies of the American inner city is incomplete.
The Wire educational courses
What interests college and university professors is the fact that “The Wire” works despite its subject matter. As popular entertainment, the series is starting with two rather significant disadvantages: its grim subject matter and the fatalistic worldview of David Simon. Simon has said that the show is meant to be a Greek tragedy but with institutions like the police department or the school system taking the place of the gods: the immortal forces that toy with, and blithely destroy, the mortals below.
It is argued that the greatness of the show stems from the way it interweaves realism and Simon’s tragic vision with the sort of melodramatic elements that television demands: the brotherly bond between Stringer Bell and the gang leader Avon Barksdale, Bubbles’ long battle with addiction, detective Jimmy McNulty’s attempts to rein in his self-destructive impulses, and the use of foreshadowing and irony throughout.
Courses are now available in universities such as Yale and the University of Pittsburgh Law School that aim to use the superb show in a bid to educate and inform students about topical issues like drug enforcement, gun violence, and law enforcement. For those that aren’t familiar with the adventurous of McNulty, Bunk, Stringer Bell, and co., they’re advised that “The Wire” contains a considerable amount of violence, as well as adult content and language that some may find offensive. Disclaimer: The course also requires each student to invest a significant amount of time outside of class watching the series. Sign us up!
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