Real Thugs on the Fifth Season of The Wire

Over at the Freakanomics blog, Sudhir Venkatesh, author of Gang Leader for A Day, looks at some gang member responses to HBO’s The Wire.

For the first episode, we gathered in the Harlem apartment of Shine, a 43-year-old half Dominican, half African-American man who managed a gang for fifteen years before heading to prison for a ten-year drug trafficking sentence. I invited older guys like Shine, most of whom had retired from the drug trade, because they would have greater experience with rogue cops, political toughs, and everyone else that makes The Wire so appealing. They affectionately named our gathering “Thugs and ‘Cuz.” (I was told that the “‘cuz” — short for “cousin” — was for me.)… Here’s a quick-and-dirty summary of the evening’s highlights:

1. The Bunk is on the take. Much to my chagrin (since he is my favorite character), the consensus in the room was that the Bunk was guilty. In the words of Shine, “He’s too good not to be profiting. I got nothing against him! But he’s definitely in bed with these street [thugs].” Many had known of Bunk’s prowess as a detective from past episodes. The opening scene, in which he craftily obtains a confession, reinforced their view that the Bunk is too good not to be hiding something.

2. Prediction No. 1: McNulty and the Bunk will split. The observation regarding Bunk’s detective work led to a second agreement, namely that McNulty or Bunk will be taken down — shot, arrested, or killed. This was closely tied to the view that McNulty and Bunk will come into conflict. The rationale? Everyone felt that Marlo, Proposition Joe, or another high-ranking gang leader must have close (hitherto unexplained) ties with one of these two detectives.