The relationship of human beings with death, understood in all its facets, is something ancestral, but also absolutely relative. In fact, there is no other dichotomy that can be experienced in such a subjective way, influenced as it is by an incalculable variety of factors. For some, in fact, it may be family experiences, for others religion, for still others work. For example, doctors, law enforcement officers or gravediggers are certainly not insensitive to pain, sometimes extreme to the point of becoming horror, but they are forced to live with it in the exercise of their profession. We are therefore not surprised if their way of metabolizing the same traumatic event is different from ours. Not worse, not better. Simply different.
The philosopher Zygmunt Bauman spoke of the habit of pain, of the human being’s ability to adapt to habits in his essay “The Sources of Evil“. Bauman defines “Nagasaki Syndrome” the repetition of horror as the natural order of things. He explains in these terms how violence perpetrated over the centuries is possible and how human beings have not been able to eradicate it from the society in which they have lived and continue to live. On the contrary, it continually overwrote the limits of evil, going so far as to drop two atomic bombs in the space of a few days on two Japanese cities, or to attempt to erase the Jews from the face of the earth, starting from the most elementary practices of discrimination. However, all this is precisely the ability to live with all that is death and violence from the point of view of those who perpetrate the horror, not those who suffer or fight against it.
A series which is not nihilistic, but which we can define – on a philosophical level – as extremely realistic as The Wire is, provides its point of view, precisely by examining the figures who, with regard to death, make it the constant of their job: two homicide detectives at a crime scene. Two agents in the city with the highest crime rate in the United States, Baltimore, who have now internalized the most heinous forms of murder, as well as have taken note of the distortions of the American legal system. Two agents, however good at their job, who have reached a level of disillusionment that only the horror routine can get you to. Under these nefarious auspices comes one of the most iconic scenes of The Wire, the so-called “f**k scene“.
For about 4 minutes detectives Jimmy McNulty and Bunk Moreland analyze a crime scene using only the word fuck and its more restricted forms.
For many critics, especially the journalist Alan Sepinwall in his cult book “Telerevolution”, this scene is the mirror reflection of what The Wire is in a wider sense. A beautiful and good declaration of intent, now in the fourth episode of the first season, such that if you love this scene you will love the whole series; if you find it disconcerting, chances are you won’t be able to appreciate one of Hbo’s most ambitious titles. Such an epic TV moment obviously has a gestation that is at least memorable, which is worth telling and passing on.
The idea of putting him in the series came to The Wire creator David Simon while recalling an episode from his time as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. they were witnessing, Police Sergeant Terry McLarney reflected on the excessive use of profanity in law enforcement: “One day we’ll get to the point where just using the word ‘fuck’ will be enough to communicate”
The trigger on the plot level is offered by the investigation into the death of Deirdre Kresson, one of the women of Avon Barksdale, the boss of the first season of The Wire. D’Angelo, Avon’s nephew, tells Bodie, Wallace and Poot every detail of the murder, how he distracted the woman with a pack of cocaine and how Roland Brice, another Barksdale man, shot her from the side. window. Detective Cole had ignored virtually every lead, so it was up to McNulty and Moreland to piece together what happened. And they do it in their own style, starting to communicate with the most immediate interlayer that exists.
Like it or not, the scene aroused mixed reactions in the spectators: those who laughed heartily, despite the context, and those who were blown away. The same reaction had by the two protagonists, Dominic West and Wendell Pierce, who accepted the authors’ request with extreme perplexity and then laughed irrepressibly every time filming stopped. Both, however, remember their performance as one of the most shining examples of acting in The Wire.
Indeed the “f ** k scene” works because it captures the essence of the work of police officers in these circumstances
Let’s pretend we’re police officers. A crime scene is something so concrete, so striking, that there’s no need to stand there describing it, unless you’re a forensic technician in charge of explaining what you can’t see. Everything is therefore reduced to the bone of verbal communication: grunts, curse words, sighs, curses. This gives way to the authors of The Wire to give life to a treatise on semiotics, in which the gestures and fucks of the two detectives accompany their work and the meticulous reconstruction of what really happened.
To the viewer everything appears perfectly clear not only because their actions are extremely eloquent, but also because in the previous scene we are given the opportunity to understand what really happened with the death of Deirdre Kresson, how it is connected to the case of D’Angelo Barksdale and how sloppy the investigation had been carried out up to that point.
Through this expedient the personalities of McNulty and Bunk are revealed to us. It is made clear to us how much these atrocities are part of their routine and how they react to them. As we said earlier, we are talking about two middle-aged detectives who are once again piecing together the pieces of yet another complex murder case in Baltimore and they no longer have the energy to let off steam in a blatant way. Their disillusionment is expressed with nothing but a series of ‘fucks’ so instinctive, so didactic.
At the same time this rant tells us a lot about the relationship between the two. We sense that Jimmy and Bunk are friends or that they are so familiar that they don’t need a too varied word to communicate with each other. We understand that they are people who don’t give a damn about what people think of them and this breaks down the distance with the viewer: we suddenly feel more empathetic. We just stated it above that, in their place, we would have had the same reaction.
The Wire, using a single word, showed us his entire narrative universe
The Wire is a novel lent to television. It needs to be didactic because it has a documentary function of what is the fall of the pillars of the American institution. To get around that heaviness inevitable for an overly cathedratic style, the series uses brilliant characters and dialogues, without renouncing its crude realism. The fuck scene is just that, being able to represent a story on the screen without using words, with the exception of “fuck”, “fuck me”, “fucking fuck” and “motherfucker”.
Important information is communicated through images and action. The simple and routine task of two detectives reevaluating a polluted crime scene and gathering new evidence is elevated to art. There is a premise, a major development and a twist articulated without the use of refined vocabulary. Something totally counterintuitive compared to the television medium. Something totally in line with what The Wire is, was and always will be.