David Simon on the ‘Obligation’ to Address Politics in Art

The worlds of politics and entertainment have always been intertwined, but today, the two have become increasingly difficult to separate. But perhaps they shouldn’t be. Art and life are reflections of each other, after all.

“If you’re trying to occupy public space with narrative, whether it’s television or film or art or journalism [and] you’re not speaking to this, you’re missing a moment that you’re obligated to,” David Simon, who created topical series such as “The Wire,” said at the ATX Television Festival Saturday.

Simon, a former journalist turned showrunner, continued to say “all art is inevitably political on some measure of the spectrum, and if you’re not tending to what’s happening now, you’re going to be judged.”

“I feel like this is the moment where you’ve got to stand up,” he said. “Certain things that we took for granted, that were inherently implausible and beyond the pale for our political construct, are now on the table.”

Simon’s projects have never shied away from confronting the issues that plague America, but shows including “Treme,” “Generation Kill” and, most recently, “The Deuce” have managed to remove themselves somewhat by setting themselves in a different time period. It was when he was filming “Show Me A Hero,” which was set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, that one of the show’s storylines ran parallel with issues about affordable housing that were going on in New York City at the time — right down to the rhetoric being thrown around on both sides of the aisle.

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That era, Simon noted, there was a sense of responsibility about the way stories were told because “in the act of publishing, you made yourself vulnerable.” In today’s digital age of social media he feels the rhetoric has been transformed. (Simon was recently blocked from Twitter.)

When considering series that depict the Trump era as they run concurrently to his political office, Simon admitted that “trying to stay in-step with the reality seems terrifying to me.”

“If something doesn’t change in terms of how we keep the money out of our political system, and how we keep the money out of distorting our media culture for purposes of maximizing power — until we figure that out, it’s not gonna be a TV show. We’re gonna be staging it as a seven-part play in the recreation yard of Guantanamo,” he said.

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