Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 117

of aggression from exposure, due to the frequent correlation between exaggerated expressions of masculinity and aggression” (Scharrer 615). However, textual elements of The Wire condemn macho masculinity, highlighting its regressive qualities and toxicity. In contrast, Omar occupies a counter-hegemonic model of masculinity, presented as a healthier alternative to the macho and gangsta models of masculinity commonly represented in popular police dramas. Thus, the ultimate aim of this critical studies essay is to normalize alternative and progressive forms of masculinity. Theoretical Foundation and Methodology The concept of hegemonic masculinity, pioneered by sociologist R.W. Connell, describes normative societal masculinity, and the subordination of other masculinities that do not meet these standards (Connell and Messerschmidt 832). Commonly, such marginalized masculinities include alternative gender identities such as homosexuality (Connell and Messerschmidt 837; Demetriou 341; Donaldson 648). Law professor Frank Rudy Cooper describes hegemonic masculinity as contemporary “ideal[s] of manhood that … set the norm by which all men will tacitly agree to be judged” (100). Because hegemonic masculinity “is based on practice that permits men’s collective dominance over women to continue, it is not surprising that in some contexts, hegemonic masculinity actually does refer to men’s engaging in [macho] practices … that stabilize gender dominance in a particular setting” (Connell and Messerschmidt 840). To contrast The Wire’s presentation of white hegemonic masculinity with its presentation of black hegemonic masculinity, both of which are commonly expressed in the series through macho practices such as physical aggression and violence, this critical studies essay employs rhetorical criticism for its method. Media scholars harness rhetorical criticism to identify and interpret the persuasive messages embedded within texts by their authors (Jasinski 128). Rhetorical criticism was best suited for this project due to the methodological position of The Wire and other television series relating audience interpretation of thematic content. Additionally, this essay draws from multidimensional masculinity theory, intersectionality theory, and queer theory for its theoretical framework. All 60 episodes of The Wire were viewed for this case study, with specific episodes being coded for scenes and dialogue that link McNulty and Omar’s masculinity to their respective racial identities. Akin to its peers on HBO and AMC, The Wire deconstructs masculine identity in American society. It is important to note that masculinity exists as a socially constructed ideal rather than a realized actuality, and for men in general this ideal is perpetually 117