I’ve written a chapter The bigger the lie, the more they believe: morality and ethics in The Wire for the book Better Living Through TV. The chapter considers how morality and ethics are not immanent to television shows. At a time when the emancipatory power of television is, perhaps, far greater than that of cinema, I claim morality and ethics are reflective apparatuses articulating something of the confusion of positions encountered in society.
There is an antagonism in how a moral or ethical value is implied in the basic structure of a television show itself, yet the opposite is expressed in its form. In order for any television show to be made, a set of non-standard moral and ethical principles need to be met. While morality and ethics can be understood as interventions that impose an external and restricting framework back onto the flexibility of television fiction writing. In reality, writing fiction allows for the expression of almost any position. Such that, from inside any fictional drama there is, potentially, no objective limit to the question of morals and ethics. Fictional dramas can, quite literally, say and do whatever it is they want.