Exclusive David Simon Q&A (page 13)
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Exclusive David Simon Q&A Q: We heard about your frustration over the critics not noticing the train symbolism.  What else don't we get that bothers you?  [Jim King]

A: Frustration is overstating it, perhaps.  But I am often surprised that sometimes the most fundamental thematic symbolism is ignored in television, where in a feature film it would be acknowledged and discussed.  So much of television has for so long been filmed in a rapid-fire, utilitarian fashion that when filmmakers attempt to use the medium in any kind of visual or allegorical way, it rolls right past many people.  This is true of some other well-made dramas on HBO as well.

There's better work being done nowadays on television, but I think critics of the medium, generally, are not accustomed to regarding television as a visual craft in the same way that film critics are comfortable doing so.  As a result, a lot of discussion about high-end television is limited to a literal recounting of story.  The words and the plot and the acting are all important of course; perhaps they are most important.  But sometimes the unspoken, as the next level of understanding, is important too.

Bob Colesberry would not have worked in television if the above wasn't true.  It is what he brought to the table as a filmmaker and his love of the visual was infectious.

To break the film down and reveal any thematic or visual cues as a didactic exercise seems to defeat whatever sense of discovery viewers might experience.  I've let slip some of our metaphors and visual cues in the DVD commentaries and that's probably not for the better.  But it's true that the position of the blinds in the Comstat room are metaphorical, and it's true that the interactions with trains in the railyard are symbolic as well.  The first scene of every season speaks to the theme of the ensuing season, just as there is a thematic correlation between the personal lives of characters or lack thereof, and their dependence or independence of the institutional imperative.

There are visual and audio links - repetitions, if you will -- between worlds, indicating that cops and dealers and longshoremen and imported sex workers and even political functionaries are challenged by similar circumstances and are vulnerable to the same sociopolitical or economic fundamentals.  We think about this shit too much perhaps, but having the opportunity to do so is what makes the project matter to us.

Q: Where did the idea for Hamsterdam come from?  Were you advocating a particular position?  [Shane Faulkner]

A: We followed Ed Burns' analogy of the paper bag to its logical - and I do mean logical - conclusion.  A true-life Hamsterdam would not be pretty and we captured that, I think.  But without a truce in the war on drugs, this country is only going to continue to squander precious resources that might be better utilized to rebuild human lives and to continue to demonize its underclass and turn its inner cities into war zones.  What drugs have not destroyed, the war against them has.  Until we admit this, we are destined to fail and fail miserably.

I am against drug abuse on a deeply personal level, but I am against drug prohibition on every level, personal and political.  But it doesn't matter that I am or that The Wire reflects this, because our political culture cannot and will not produce the selfless courage necessary for a political leader to address the problem honestly.  Our political culture only produces politicians and it serves only the relentless ambition of those willing to tell us what we think we want to hear.

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