New Criticals

Omar is excluded from society proper and the "society" of the criminal underworld, yet, as a criminal and an informant, he is also part of those worlds from which he is excluded. Bubbles, the poor junkie who engages in petty crime to feed his addiction is effectively invisible as a member of society, yet we see him as part of the "inside" not only in his role as crucial informant, but in his various attempts to be a moral member through his loving mentorship of Johnny Weeks and Sherrod. Frank Sobotka's smuggling is not motivated by the type of greed and self-aggrandizement that stands against society, but precisely as a way to sustain his life "inside" society, namely the unglamorous yet dignified working-class life of the stevedore. The most powerful "insiders" at every level of government engage in criminal "outsider" activity—bribery, theft, corruption—precisely so that they can maintain their position and influence "inside." Though we conceptualize the criminal as Other, always motivated by selfish anti-social desires, The Wire reveals that the criminal is both different and not all that different from "Us," and that crime is precisely the action whereby an individual does not set himself apart, but tries to be a part, if not of society "proper," then part of some kind of community of recognition at all. Bubbles, ever wise, articulates this blurry boundary between inside and outside in one of his many illuminating aphorisms: "Thin line 'tween heaven and here" ("Old Cases," Season 1, Ep. 4).