There is a constant use of surveillance camera shots throughout the The Wire. Taken together, they create the unsettling feeling that we are always being watched. Big Brother is alive and well in Baltimore. So one of the series’ most satisfying and enduring images is the one where Bodie uses a rock to take down a camera set up by the Housing Department to monitor the lowrise courtyard. It is an iconic shot, one that earned a spot in the opening credits for all five seasons of The Wire. We watch from the perspective of the camera, powerless to stop that rock from shattering the lens and destroying its recording capabilities.
If surveillance cameras have power, the shot seems to suggest, they only maintain that power when they record people who are either willing to accept the surveillance or ignore it. Cameras are everywhere: in professional environments (such as police departments, offices and even schools) and public places (like stores, intersections and casinos). Most people seem to accept this omnipresent surveillance as a necessary component of our modern society, but according to Bodie, those people are “just dumb.”
The scene itself is pretty funny. There is the friendly bickering between D’Angelo and Bodie and the fact that they can’t tell their pagers apart. But the biggest joke is carefully hidden from view. As Bodie celebrates his liberation from the cracked eye of the Housing Department, he is simultaneously being watched by a different, sharper set of eyes. The private eyes of Freamon watch from across the street, observing the hoppers to confirm that the number he got off of the stash house wall goes to D’Angelo’s pager. The message is clear: Visible surveillance is not the true danger. It is the unseen eyes that we really need to worry about.
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