David Simon barely flinched.
As President Barack Obama told him that he was “a huge fan of The Wire,” which he called “one of the greatest pieces of art” of the last few decades, and as he continued with a question on the drug trade, the camera turned to Simon.
Here was the most powerful man in the world complimenting the creator of such a fine piece of art that’s he’s also a huge superfan of. Said creator said nothing and did nothing. He waited for the question.
Because David Simon is above that nonsense. He cares that you love his show only insofar that maybe you learn more about drugs in America and do something about it.
POTUS had a rare chance to see what the seat feels like on the other side when you’re the one asking the questions this week, for an interview with Simon. Their conversation is fascinating, with awesome on- and off-camera shots, and serves many purposes.
For Simon, it gives him a platform to discuss things he feels very strongly about, namely The Wire and, more importantly, the broader themes of the show like the never-ending war on drugs and the moral bankruptcy of many (most?) social institutions in America. And perhaps to enact change as well, though this possibility is increasingly looking like a relic.
While the While House released this video on its YouTube channel very innocuously, there are clear benefits for Obama as well. He can relate to citizens in a different manner, now showing that he’s attuned to HBO and television series—sort of like, “Hey, just because you’re working toward becoming POTUS doesn’t mean that you don’t have time to watch an excellent show.” And like Simon, Obama would like to perhaps enact social changes… which brings up a third thing.
While this video came with no bells and whistles, we are no fools. As the interviewer, Obama can guide the conversation to the topics of his choosing while also just remaining the one who asks the questions. In a way, Obama uses Simon to say things that he believes and thinks the same way that the “Talk About” question gets an athlete to confirm a reporter’s hypothesis. “You can’t arrest your way out of a drug problem” but hey it’s Simon saying this, not Obama. We know that and we don’t even care.
Well, Obama follows that script for about eight minutes. Then, he remembers he’s POTUS. Oh and for those who wonder, Obama’s favourite character in The Wire is Omar Little. Duh.