David Simon is one of the creators and writers of my favorite dramatic series, The Wire. One of the things that I love about The Wire is that it does not pander to the audience. If there is such a thing, it is high brow commercial television because it does not believe the audience is a bunch of morons. It throws you right into the action as if you were standing there and has the viewer sort out the pieces of what he is seeing like you might do in “the real world”. In an interview by Nick Hornby of The Believer, Simon sort of explains why he writes the way he writes. I’m going to clean this quote up a little, but he does make his point:
My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: —- the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. —- him. —- him to hell.
Beginning with Homicide, the book, I decided to write for the people living the event, the people in that very world. I would reserve some of the exposition, assuming the reader/viewer knew more than he did, or could, with a sensible amount of effort, hang around long enough to figure it out. I also realized—and this was more important to me—that I would consider the book or film a failure if people in these worlds took in my story and felt that I did not get their existence, that I had not captured their world in any way that they would respect.
I know it is easy to bash the television offerings we have nowadays, but let me just say it is shame that truly creative people like Simon do not get more of a voice in mass media entertainment. I think the executives of mass media would be surprised by the viewer response to shows like The Wire…if there were more of them.