Friday, May 16, 2008

Omar Little

A few of us have been playing with the idea of an academic conference on HBO's The Wire.  After all, if UEA can host a conference including papers like: 'From Queen if the Jungle to Tabloid Folk Devil: Kerry Katona as 'White Trash Mother', then why not a conference on the best TV series ever?  I think I'd offer something on Omar Little, one the two greatest characters on the show (the other, of course, being Bubbles...)

Anyway, since you have to have a colon in the titles for papers of this sort, I'm toying with the following possibilities:

1.  Omar and virtue ethics: the excellences of the stick-up artist

This would inquire into the virtues inculcated and encouraged by the heroic agonistic society of Baltimore's streets and also the sense in which Omar both accepts 'the game' but also strikes out with his own assessment of values and loyalty.  Further, can virtues truly be displayed by someone engaged in what is on most assessments truly immoral behaviour?  That Omar is cunning and a skilled fighter is beyond question.  But can he ever be properly admirable?  Omar provokes these questions because although in many ways clearly a violent and criminal character there is also an obvious sense in which he is to be applauded  for other traits of charater -- certainly comparatively against his peers but possibly also in some more absolute sense.  He is loyal, committed to his partner, able to see the damage being done to his surrounding society, eloquent, courageous, sincere etc.  What standards of evaluation are appropriate for us to adopt?  Must we take up a stance within the axiology of the society in which Omar acts or can we take up an external viewpoint?

2. (H)Omar's Achilles: The Wire and epic

This would explore the parallels between Omar and Achilles in the Greek epic tradition.  Both are heroic and part of the heroic cultural norms of their times but also challenge and reject some of those norms.  They stand partly outside the conventional mores while being unable to escape them entirely.  Both are stirred to action by the maltreatment of the corpse of their beloved.  (There are other parallels too, but in case people haven't got through season 5 I'd better not go on.)  By tapping these deep literary resonance how does The Wire figure itself as an epic?  In particular, does it aim to share the Homeric epics' ability to make the lives and actions of a particular group of people stand for much more general human questions?

I doubt I'll write any of these, but you never know.  I don't think it's an inappropriate subject for such analysis.  If I hear of any more proposed papers maybe we should really have this conference.  Anyone have Idris Elba's phone number?  I know a lot of people who'd turn up for him giving a keynote lecture.

1 comment:

stc said...

I love "(H)Omar's Achilles". I think I'll propose a paper on naturalism and narrative structure -- something about the impact of abandoning the stand-alone episode structure for a more novelistic 13-part narrative. Hey -- it's even a bit like nineteenth-century serial publishing!

I definitely feel a bit of research coming on....