Popular Culture Review 29.1 (Spring 2018) - Page 121

Maybe they need the make believe.” However, “Clarifications” asserts that McNulty’s motivations are in fact purely selfish rather than serving any greater good, thus subverting the outlaw hero archetype. The FBI profiles the killer based on McNulty’s fabricated evidence, unknowingly providing a near-perfect profile of McNulty that highlights his character flaws, all of which are tied to McNulty’s macho masculine identity: [The suspect] has a problem with authority and a deep- seated resentment for those that have impeded his progress professionally … He may be struggling with lasting relationships and potentially a high functioning alcoholic, with alcohol being used as a trigger in the crimes. The suspect’s [crimes] may simply be an opportunity for the killer to assert his superiority and intellectual prowess. McNulty’s plot is eventually revealed to his superiors, finally resulting in his termination in the series finale, “-30-” (3/09/08). For McNulty, who “disintegrates when his identity is not fixed by his job” (Meaney 12), this is a punishment worse than incarceration, leaving him aimless and metaphorically emasculated. Near the conclusion of “-30-,” McNulty finally abandons his previous delusions of heroism, and concedes that he is “a fucking joke,” both personally and professionally. Ultimately, macho masculinity essentializes several specific qualities, including sexual charisma, alcohol consumption, and resistance to authority. Ultimately, McNulty’s masculine identity does not deviate or progress from traits typical of a white, working class heteronormative alpha male, which are designed to compensate them for shortcomings in other areas of masculine validation: [Working class men] who ostentatiously pursue drugs, alcohol, and sexual carousing are constructing a compensatory form of masculinity. Such behavior is worn like a badge of masculinity in the work and social environments inhabited. … This exaggerated masculinity compensates their subordinated status in the hierarchy of their everyday work worlds. (Pyke 538) However, The Wire, as with other series of the current Golden Age, deconstructs such archetypal notions of masculinity. In particular, The Wire deromanticizes McNulty’s macho masculinity and instead exposes it as emotionally stunted and ultimately self- destructive. Contrastingly, while McNulty displays stereotypes of white macho masculinity, Omar wholly rejects conventional macho masculinity, black or otherwise, and deviates entirely from popular societal expectations. 121