Arguing Bodie’s Potential

Herc: How are you home?
Bodie: Juvenile Judge, man, he saw my potential. He expects big things from me.
Herc: Yeah, like what?
Bodie: I don’t know, college, law school, medical school, all that good shit.

There is a lot of talk about promise and potential as Bodie clears up his legal troubles and finally comes home under a laughably-permissive home monitoring system. In the very first phone call that the detail officially monitors, Stringer asks D’Angelo if Bodie has enough “promise” to bring home. The real question is whether this hopper is talented enough to justify the expense and effort of having Levy get him out of jail.

During the hearing itself, Levy and his fellow-lawyer present a different type of potential to the judge. They offer “signed statements from Preston’s sponsors at the Police Athletic League” and show that he is enrolled in GED courses. “This is pro bono, your honor” Levy says. “My firm is making it a priority to identify a number of city youths who are in crisis, and to undertake efforts to reorder their lives.” The scene is classic Levy, as he bullies the lone-prosecutor who sits barricaded behind a wall of casework. One by one, the wizardly Levy spins each of Bodie’s crimes, converting the drug-dealing cop-puncher into a sympathetic victim. He describes Bodie as the unwitting puppet of older hoppers and the punching bag for violent police officers. Bodie puts on a suit and an innocent look as his long-suffering grandmother sits behind him like a prop.

So when Herc and Carver jump Bodie for what they think is “round three” of their battle, they hear about a different version of his promise. In Bodie’s response (quoted above), he describes his possible future as a doctor or lawyer. It is laughable, and even Bodie knows it, claiming “all that good shit.” He is way past the phase where he can get the education necessary to achieve those goals, not to mention many far more modest ones. But that joke highlights a more tragic failing of our inner cities, because the truth is that Bodie really does have promise. He is that smart-ass pawn, both funny and forceful. But in the context where he grew up, with an absent father and a mother who “couldn’t see nothing else,” that potential turns into anger. His promise will only be able to play out within the limited, deadly world of the drug trade.

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