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Representation of The Penal State in HBO’s The Wire


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Mesić, Borna. (2018). Representation of The Penal State in HBO’s The Wire. Diploma Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of English Language and Literature. [mentor Cvek, Sven].

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This master’s thesis explores the representation of the penal state in HBO’s acclaimed TV show The Wire. After dismantling the welfare system in the 1990s, the United States of America has shifted to a punitive regulation of poverty. This is evidenced by the fact that the incarceration rate has increased four times in the span of 25 years, while the crime rates remained stagnant. The restriction of welfare was justified by invoking the ideology of personal responsibility and stereotypes such as the “welfare queen.” By illustrating the systemic urban inequality of the inner city which limits its characters’ individual autonomy, The Wire positions itself against the ideology of personal responsibility. Its vast array of complex, three-dimensional characters serves to dispel stereotypes of African American residents of the inner city. However, the stereotypical representations still persist when the show’s focus shifts to African American mothers. They are represented as irresponsible and their desires are linked directly to their sons’ negative outcomes. In a rare didactic moment, the series encourages nuclear patriarchal families as the antidote to the decaying institutions of the dilapidated American inner city.

Item Type: Diploma Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: The Wire, penal state, welfare, prisonfare, African American, personal responsibility
Subjects: English language and literature
Departments: Department of English Language and Literature
Supervisor: Cvek, Sven
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2018 12:23
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2018 12:23

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