By Isaac Butler
I wrote a thing for the good folks at Hooded Utilitarian about the Hong Kong gangster saga Election/Triad Election, The Wire, and democracy. The essay is completely spoiler free about the Election films, which, taken together are one of my favorite films of the aughts and are both available on Netflix Instant for the first time in awhile:
Many pixels have been spilled documenting David Simon’s perspective on our crumbling institutions of government. As he told The Believer, societal institutions are like the Gods in Greek Tragedy, inexorable, powerful forces that undermine individual agency. The truth teller in a Simon piece is always the head that’s eventually going to be on the block. Attempts to improve the overall situation are doomed to succeed only on a small level, and only for a brief period of time, but are still noble and worthwhile. Simon believes in individuals. Individuals may, in fact, be the only thing in which he’ll invest his faith. This forms a tension with his Democratic Socialist political leanings and this tension is part of what makes his work so electric and alive when it is at its best.
The perspective of the Election films inverts this equation. In To’s Universe, individuals are the problem and institutional tradition’s bulwark against individual will is the only thing standing between order and chaos. The problem in the Election films is that post-Millenial capitalism, with its empowering of individual will, embrace of selfishness, and temptations of money has eroded these institutions to the point where they are a hollow, symbolic shell...
You can read the whole thing here.