Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Wire Talk: What's in a name?

Disclaimer: I do not like Marlo. At all.

Cartoonist extraordinare and "The Wire" watcher Steve Lieber (check this out) makes an excellent observation in the comments section of Bethlehem Shoals' most recent Heavenandhere post (a reaction to ep. 59). Lieber contrasts Marlo's now famous "My name is my name!" jailhouse declaration with a statement made by Vondas in Season 2, and points out how it "draws a line between the street and the money." I'd like to expand on that idea. To wit:

Vondas: He knows my name, but my name is not my name. And them you're only "The Greek."

The Greek: And, of course, I'm not even Greek.

It's indicative of the difference in mentality between the two powers. Marlo, like Avon before him, is all about protecting his image and rep in the streets. Pride and manhood, the downfall of many a men. When Stanfield gets angry that Omar was calling him out by name without his knowledge, and proclaims that he's willing to "step to any mothafucka, Omar, Barksdale, whoever," I don't doubt his sincerity for nary a second. Why do you think Chris didn't want him to know? Because he knew that Marlo would've responded in the same impulsive, ultra-masculine manner that he displays in said scene.

Remember in Season 3, after Slim and Cutty's arranged ambush on a Stanfield corner blew up into a complete disaster, and Avon, just recently having been released from prison and with gun in hand, was ready to go down to the streets after Marlo his damn self? Same thing.

The Greek, on the other hand, cares so little about his "name ringing out" that he is known only by a moniker that belies his true nationality.

And not really Vondas.

Is it an age/maturity thing? Maybe. Is it a black/white thing? I don't think so. It's kind of a trite thing to say at this point, but Stringer had the same kind of low-key, profit over public esteem business mind. Did that make him smarter than Avon? Yes, actually. Unfortunately for him, he was too smart for his own good. But that's a whole 'nother story.

Although in the defense of guys like Avon and Marlo, they probably can't help but be the way they are. I'm no psychologist (I got a "D' in Psych 101 and don't plan on re-taking it), but I would conjecture that most thugs are born as such, and are just acting out their nature. Marlo isn't just obsessed with protecting his name because his kingdom is tantamount to it; under no circumstance or in any position, drug kingpin or civilian or whatever, would he shy away from a confrontation with Omar, or anybody else, who invited him to man up. I can picture him as a pubescent little hopper, running around the streets of Baltimore trying to catch pigeons, and standing toe-to-toe, eye-to-eye with anyone - ANYONE - who disrespected him. The ice-cold stare Mike gave him in their initial meeting? Mike telling Namond "I ain't tryna stand around, let a bunch of chump ass niggas think I'm shook. I ain't." That's Marlo ten years ago, that's Marlo today, that's Marlo always.

Now, does that mean that Mike is the next Marlo? I'm not even gonna touch that subject. You wanna scratch that itch, you need to follow that H&H link. They got you.


Anonymous said...

If Mike is the next Marlo, then Kenard is maybe the next Mike?

Interesting thoughts. I think the Greek purposely doesn't want his name to ring out. His whole operation depends on being clandestine.

Steve Lieber said...

Hey- thanks for the linkage!

I think the big difference between a Marlo and a Vondas is the ability to switch modes. The willingness to be murderously impulsive in defense of one's reputation is extremely valuable in Marlo's subculture. It's made him a fearsome enemy and an effective leader and brought him to the top of the game in Baltimore. But (to extend the metaphor) being on top means he's no longer flying under anyone's radar, which has made him a target of the police (and of dangerous enemies like Omar.)

Thus, the paradox- to wear the crown at his level of the game, he needs a rep for dropping a lot of bodies, but (as Stringer once said,) it's the bodies that bring the police. Vondas and the Greek didn't get where they are by playing nice with anyone, but they had the sophistication to switch modes and camouflage themselves as ordinary businessmen. And, more importantly, they operate in a world which rewards such behavior rather than penalizes it.

If you get the chance, check the stuff about the requirements of thug leadership in Gang Leader for a Day- it was really illuminating.


Call Me... "Mr. Garr" said...

Mike is not the next marlo. Mike is the next omar.

Katy said...

I agree with "Mr. Garr". That's the only prediction I have. Only 1 1/2 hours till final show!

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