Derek Johnson Muses

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Breaking Bad and the Human Flaw

Two week, I started watching Breaking Bad on Netflix (hey, my subscription’s just sitting there.. I had only had a perfunctory interest in Malcolm in the Meth Lab because it was on the same network as The Walking Dead. The 8 minute episode recap I saw drained me; I could only imagine how much moral weight a full episode, much less a 13-episode season contained. But the show’s blending of a liberal and a conservative understandings of evil intrigued me. 

BB is partially typical liberal satire on middle America, and a liberal understanding that evil is created by one’s circumstances. The conservative dopes in the sticks want to judge us, says Hollywood? A mega-villain can just pop out of the cul-de-sac in average-joe-New Mexico if he gets cacer. But what makes the show great is a conservative understanding evil. Creator Vince Gilligan admitted that one of best decisions he and his writers made early in the series was to make Walt driven by blinding pride, so much so that he cannot accept help from others to pay for his cancer treatments (see the video below). Otherwise, according to Gilligan, it would have just been clumsy Dr. Tim Whately, bumbling to hold on to his drug money. In spite of this, BB was in fact fifteenth on a 2010 list of favorite shows of democrats, mainly because its most dominant theme is perversity-in-the-suburbs. (No doubt, many democrats also watched BB because of AMC’s other hit show, Mad Men, which was democrats second favorite show and their top scripted show.)

It is fascinating to consider the corruption of a man who says to his partner in crime, “Do you believe that there’s a hell? We’re pretty much going there.” The way Walt charges toward the blackness in front of him just shows how much nihilism has taken over American culture. We run toward judgment and indulge in pain, even if we admit what the consequences will be.

4 responses to “Breaking Bad and the Human Flaw

  1. Warren August 6, 2013 at 9:10 am

    The show is the least political show I have ever watched. It is all about character, morality, and one man’s hubris that decimates a community and the people he loves. If the one impression you get from this is “liberal satire,” you are watching it wrong.

    • Derek Johnson August 6, 2013 at 10:06 am

      Yes, BB isn’t overtly political, and there’s a lot about family. But it makes points about human nature, points that our political parties use as well. Both of our political parties have assumptions about what’s wrong with humanity and how we should deal with, just like this show does.

  2. Pingback: Knocking Compulsion | Derek Johnson Muses

  3. Pingback: Where Bad Should Have Broken Off | Derek Johnson Muses

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