Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 119

(7/27/2003), McNulty is chosen to infiltrate a brothel connected to a drug organization, specifically due to his reputation. True to form, McNulty ends up participating in a ménage à trois with two prostitutes before the brothel is raided, much to the bemusement of his peers. Later, in the fifth season episode “Not for Attribution” (1/20/2008), McNulty has sex with a woman on the hood of his car in a parking lot, flashing his police badge to a pair of amused detectives who investigate the noise. It is not uncommon for either working or upper-class men to engage in extramarital affairs as a form of rebellion against the boredom and restrictions of marital domesticity; this rebellion then functions as a reassertion of their masculine power (Pyke 536). Marital infidelity is a common trait amongst contemporary Golden Age protagonists, such as The Sopranos’ Tony Soprano or Mad Men’s Don Draper, both of whom are married in their respective series. The Sopranos, Mad Men and other Golden Age series use their protagonists’ infidelity as a vessel to critique shifting notions of masculinity and related male anxieties. When contrasted against their roles as husbands and fathers, Soprano and Draper’s infidelity adds further layers of complexity to their characters. However, The Wire breaks tradition from these and other Golden Age dramas by explicitly condemning McNulty’s infidelity. Unlike Soprano and Draper, McNulty is already punished for his infidelity prior to the beginning of his series, with his ex-wife Elena having discovered his affair with Pearlman and filed for divorce. Despite McNulty’s attempts to reconcile with Elena, she repeatedly denies his advances, correctly characterizing his actions as immature and toxic. Besides casual sex, McNulty’s greatest vice is alcohol, another recognized marker of macho masculinity (Scharrer 617). Throughout the series, McNulty is frequently seen drinking both on and off the job. However, The Wire starkly portrays McNulty’s consumption of alcohol as dangerous. In the cold open for the second season episode “Duck and Cover” (7/27/03), McNulty attempts to drive home from a bar while severely incapacitated, instead crashing his car and cutting his hand. This incident is the most prominent within the series that de-romanticizes McNulty’s consumption of alcohol. Even Bunk Moreland, McNulty’s partner and best friend, admits in “Duck and Cover” that McNulty is “a picture postcard of a drunken, self-destructive fuck-up.” The emphasis on McNulty’s alcohol abuse is an important aspect of the character’s masculinity; as recognized by Cooper, “Many of the most powerful expressions of masculinity within contemporary American society continue to be associated with blue-collar imagery” (102), with various commercials for alcohol products celebrating working class masculinity. The police officer is one of the strongest examples of working class masculinity, 119