Reading the cranky, pretentious, fan-dismissing interview with The Wire's David Simon on the New York Times' ArtsBeat blog today, we were reminded of every gasbag indie-rock-obsessed hipster who ever snorted at the mainstreaming of one of their most beloved underground bands. In talking about the great DVD sales for The Wire four years after the final episode aired, Simon disses those Bodie-come-latelies who came to the series after it went off the air, saying, "For people to be picking it apart now like it’s a deck of cards or like they were there the whole time or they understood it the whole time — it’s wearying. Because no one was there in the beginning, or the middle, or even at the end." But it's not just that David Simon was into The Wire before you that makes him worthy of the end stool at one of Williamsburg's most precious dive bars. Herewith, six more ways in which The Wire creator is secretly the ultimate hipster.
He's blacker than you. Simon is often complimented for the realistic way he depicts race, not just in The Wire, but in his newer HBO show about musicians in New Orleans, Treme. His accurate handling of race and class in a medium dominated by bougie whites is often described as "revolutionary." There's even a class at Harvard Law School called "Race and Justice — The Wire." Talk about bona fides.
His music is more authentic than yours. Instead of playing recorded music in Treme, in the name of authenticity, the audience at home hears what the band is playing while they're filmed. It goes without saying that the music is extensively researched and consists of local legends like New Orleans' country-blues singer Coco Robicheaux. Even on The Wire, where music wasn't front and center, he used mixtapes from Baltimore rappers. Hey, all you TV producers who have onscreen musicians playing to a track: He's sighing at you.
If you want television to be a serious storytelling medium, you’re up against a lot of human dynamic that is arrayed against you. Not the least of which are people who arrived to “The Wire” late, planted their feet, and want to explain to everybody why it’s so cool. Glad to hear it. But you weren’t paying attention. You got led there at the end and generally speaking, you’re asserting for the wrong things.
See also: "Fuck the average reader."
He's a traveler, not a tourist. In a Believer interview from 2007, Simon describes what he's trying to get his viewers to experience thusly:
There are two ways of traveling. One is with a tour guide, who takes you to the crap everyone sees. You take a snapshot and move on, experiencing nothing beyond a crude visual and the retention of a few facts. The other way to travel requires more time—hence the need for this kind of viewing to be a long-form series or miniseries, in this bad metaphor—but if you stay in one place, say, if you put up your bag and go down to the local pub or shebeen and you play the fool a bit and make some friends and open yourself up to a new place and new time and new people, soon you have a sense of another world entirely. We’re after this: Making television into that kind of travel, intellectually.
Treme is like a jewel box restaurant on a Berlin side street where they serve schnitzel made from a recipe that's been passed down for seven generations. If you don't like it, you might as well go to McDonald's, you plebe.
And finally, the Man Can't Keep Him Down: Back when Simon was working at Homicide: Life on the Street, NBC executives would call to give him copious notes, and in response, Simon — or possibly one of his fellow producers, no one would own up — would make a gesture known as "the antler dance," which involved pulling down his fly and sticking his thumb through it. Cash the network's checks but snicker at them when you do it: Every slacker who shows up late to his shift at Starbucks is nodding in support.
*An earlier, different version of this post was accidentally published originally.