Essay: Changing Urban Markets

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Wire and Changing Urban Markets

According to a number of sociological resources, the public in general views two major things about the inner cities: gang activity is rampant and the predominant labor market and law enforcement has the primary responsibility for curbing such activity while trying to work with the system to revitalize the neighborhood. Gangs, though, are not a new thing -- in the 19th century American and British teen gangs roamed the inner cities, have been extensively studies, and even popularized in movies like Gangs of New York and even some Dickens interpretations (e.g. Oliver Twist). What may not be so well-known, though, is that even Saint Augustine, writing over 1600 years ago, referenced the perils of gangs within the cities. During the Medieval period they were also prevalent, so much so that even Chaucer wrote about them in his Canterbury Tales. So, even though we think of this type of activity as "modern," and relegated to our inner city environments, the truth is that gangs have been around as long as organized society. Most scholarship finds that reasons for gang activity have been historically economic. They typically involved a number of marginalized adolescents who were unable to take advantage of what little educational opportunities that were available; and usually pressed towards the edge of society to the point that it was either starve or join a gang for protection - or at the very least, to eat and have a safer place to live (Franzese, Covey and Menard 2006, 109-10).

One of the ways in which many modern Americans view urban areas is through the portrayal of some of the sociological and cultural issues at the heart of the inner city. There are numerous portrayals in movies and television, but one of the most realistic and vibrant is the Wire. The Wire is a television drama set around the inner city area of Baltimore, Maryland. It began in 2002 and ended in 2008, with 60 episodes on HBO in five seasons. It was written by former police reporter David Simon, using materials actually researched and based on factual cases. Each episode focuses on a different facet of the paradigm of inner city life -- drugs, government, schools, new media, and even the role of the support system for families. It actually received only modest ratings and never won any major television awards. Yet, it has been described by critics as an ambitious portrayal of inner city life that was not afraid to deal with uncomfortable, yet important, sociopolitical themes (Traister 2007).

One of the most telling parts of the Wire is the setting -- a modern American city on the eastern seaboard that is shaped by both economic restructuring and many real demographic changes that have resulted in job loss, depopulation of the inner city, rising crime rates, and numerous social problems and inequities. The show may be set in Baltimore, but the paradigm is just as true in many urban areas -- inequality breeds crime and dissatisfaction. From a sociological standpoint, it is interesting that the Wire almost always shows how various institutions, both governmental and non-governmental, actual work to limit opportunities for the disenfranchised rather than shaping any form of actualization. The portrayal of individuals within the series, too, speaks of the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Changing Urban Markets.  (2012, March 2).  Retrieved December 9, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/changing-urban-markets/2206809

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