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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Product Placement/Drama City

This clip from The Wire is remarkable for several reasons, the least of which is its bold depiction of homosexual co-habitation.  We've seen that treatment enough in drama to live with it.  No big deal.

Every Baltimore drug dealer on the street fears Omar Little, a gay outlaw with a Robin Hood-like mystique.  This conceit was certainly remarkable television, no matter your regard for its plausibility,  but what sends this scene over the top is its underlying humorous treatment of another myth, one as compelling as the Robin Hood story.

The bad guy roaming the streets of a stark and dilapidated frontier is an homage to a thousand  old-fashioned westerns, embodied by the the neighborhood kids' behavior as they dash toward cover, certain a clear and present danger has arisen.  Comically, they are modern townspeople terrorized by the specter of a known gunslinger's penchant for violence.

That in itself is remarkable storytelling with classical underpinnings, but where this scene grows even more enchanting is in its use of product placement--the Cheerios must be the sugar-coated variety for God's sake!  What is more real than that in today's America?

And finally there is this touch. Omar's boyfriend is reading a book when the outlaw returns to their nest with an unsatisfactory product, the ordinary Cheerios.  The book Reynaldo is reading is George Pelecanos' latest novel at the time of the segment's filming, Drama City.

George Pelecanos was of course a producer of the series as well as one of its frequent scriptwriters, and a close friend of series creator David Simon.

If this is not the best product placement I've ever seen in a dramatic production, it is close, right up there with Hitchcock placing himself unobtrusively in his movies just for kicks.

Dennis Lehane wrote this particular segment of The Wire.  Like Pelecanos, he is a best-selling crime writer.  This must have been his own homage to a brother-writer in the business, and a beautiful, collaborative slight-of-hand by everyone involved.


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