'And then Comes Life': The Intersection of Race, Poverty, and Disability in HBO's, 'The Wire'

29 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2020 Last revised: 29 Oct 2021

Date Written: July 20, 2011


Despite its low ratings and lack of Emmys or Golden Globes, HBO’s groundbreaking show, The Wire, has caught and kept the attention of critics, academics, and others interested in urban life. Though the show has disappeared off the airways, it is now becoming part of the academic landscape through conferences, panels, books, and courses. The article will be the first to examine The Wire, from a legal perspective. I focus upon The Wire’s lack of attention to disability. Injury abounds in The Wire. Police officers are shot, suspects are beaten, and drug addicts overdose. Despite the onslaught of injury, disability is an underdeveloped part of the world of The Wire. The Wire is not alone in its failure to adequately examine the intersection of race, poverty, and disability, but it is a helpful lens through which to examine the neglect of poor people with disabilities and disabled people of color with disabilities. The article will open new avenues in a longstanding debate concerning appropriate policy and legal interventions for the urban poor, link together disability studies with critical race studies, and illustrate the use of an artistic medium to convey complex policy and legal ideas. The article will be of substantial utility for the growing number of scholars who teach classes on The Wire, critical race scholars, disability law scholars, and poverty law scholars.

Keywords: disability, poverty, race, welfare, media

Suggested Citation

Belt, Rabia, 'And then Comes Life': The Intersection of Race, Poverty, and Disability in HBO's, 'The Wire' (July 20, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1890966 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1890966

Rabia Belt (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

Stanford Law School
Palo Alto, CA California 94304
United States
7343087252 (Phone)

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