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Come and Be Shocked

'Come and Be Shocked' cover image

Come and Be Shocked

Baltimore beyond John Waters and The Wire

Baltimore seen through the eyes of John Waters, Anne Tyler, Charles S. Dutton, Barry Levinson, David Simon—and also ordinary citizens.

The city of Baltimore features prominently in an extraordinary number of films, television shows, novels, plays, poems, and songs. Whether it's the small-town eccentricity of Charm City (think duckpin bowling and marble-stooped row houses) or the gang violence of "Bodymore, Murdaland," Baltimore has figured prominently in popular culture about cities since the 1950s.

In Come and Be Shocked, Mary Rizzo examines the cultural history and racial politics of these contrasting images of the city. From the 1950s, a period of urban crisis and urban renewal, to the early twenty-first century, Rizzo looks at how artists created powerful images of Baltimore. How, Rizzo asks, do the imaginary cities created by artists affect the real cities that we live in? How does public policy (intentionally or not) shape the kinds of cultural representations that artists create? And why has the relationship between artists and Baltimore city officials been so fraught, resulting in public battles over film permits and censorship?

To answer these questions, Rizzo explores the rise of tourism, urban branding, and citizen activism. She considers artists working in the margins, from the East Baltimore poets writing in Chicory, a community magazine funded by the Office of Economic Opportunity, to a young John Waters, who shot his early low-budget movies on the streets, guerrilla-style. She also investigates more mainstream art, from the teen dance sensation The Buddy Deane Show to the comedy-drama Roc to the crime show The Wire, from Anne Tyler's award-winning book The Accidental Tourist to Barry Levinson's movie classic Diner.