Last night I had a dream – a flash of unconscious thought really. I was walking on a dark street and became aware that there was someone walking behind me. It was a tall, thin man, wearing a trench coat and clutching a shot gun. It was then that all my fear melted away.
I was safe in the sights of this psychopath, because he was Omar Little, Baltimore’s drug-laden Robin Hood on The Wire.*
Having dreamed about Omar, I thought it might be time to make my feelings about him known in the public sphere – or the “blogosphere” if you want me to vomit on myself.
First of all, Omar is a total badass and is admirable and exemplary in that way. Proof of bad-assedness: gigantic scar across face (which, admittedly, is the actor’s and not technically Omar’s), trench coat/shot gun combo, and the courtroom smack-down in Season Two.
Secondly, Omar is more than a character. He is a statement about agency. In the world of The Wire, there are two strong bureaucratic institutions that control the power – the Police and the Drug Trade. In both institutions, you see a very specific ranking system which at the low end features Hoppers and beat cops and goes all the way to the top, to Avon and the Mayor. The ranks are solidly established, although there is possibility of (limited) vertical mobility. Essentially, once you are in the system, your entire purpose is to perpetuate the institution and the circumstances which allow the institution to exist.
Omar is remarkable because he is not part of either institution, but is able to move freely between them, exploiting the institutions and the circumstances that they create. While others go on as cogs in either the law enforcement or drug machines, Omar is a vigilante, a free agent, going around and fucking things up. He can be compared to another floater, Bubbles, who putters about in both scenes, but is not part of either and wholly reliant on both.
Thirdly, Omar remains a pillar of moral fortitude – albeit the fucked up, killing-is-okay moral order of Baltimore. He is the most consistent character despite the fact that he is not compelled by any outside forces to act in a specific way. While the other characters – both the drug dealers and the cops – constantly stab each other in the back or undermine each other to get a sliver of the power available within their respective institutions, Omar adheres to a strict behavioral guideline from which he never wavers. It is something special to run around as both the most feared man around and the most morally righteous (which is why his face-off with BrotherMouzone is interesting – but a story for another time).
Finally, Omar is a poor, gay, black man and I’m going to go ahead and say it – members of this group do not traditionally hold a lot of power in society. This just makes it all the better that he is the toughest, most righteous, most powerful person on The Wire.
So, in conclusion I can say with little hesitation that if Omar were walking behind me with a loaded shotgun on a deserted street, I wouldn’t be scared. I would just wonder how I ended up in a TV show.
*Just to address one concern – yes, I often dream about The Wire, and no, I don’t think I need to get out more.
Read Full Post »