Breaking Bad is an American television show that has so far run for 3 seasons since 2008.
It tells the story of Walter, head of your run of the mill working class family. Let's not get bogged down in details but to me they seem as middle class as they come. Kinda like in the same way The Simpsons are routinely said to be poor. maybe it's a Hollywood thing. Maybe it's testament to American affluence. or maybe I'm just jealous because I don't have time for the same lavish breakfast every morning.
Anyway, I'm straying off course here. To keep it brief, Walt works two jobs--high school chemistry teacher and car washer--to keep his family afloat before being diagnosed with lung cancer. With apparently 18 months to live he uses his chemistry expertise to cook methamphetamine with underachieving student and drug dealer Jesse Pinkman. With Walter's superior product and Pinkman's business connections and street know how, they are able to stay in the game for long to to make a name for themselves and to allow us to witness several hilarious gaffs stemming from the ridiculousness that is a high school teacher's involvement in the criminal underworld.
It strikes most apparently to anyone who's seen both shows as an alternative Dexter. Like what if Dexter Morgan was a drug dealer rather than a serial killer? Everything from the lavish breakfast I mentioned (a staple component for American culture--yes, I am jealous)to the dark, surrealist humour makes it precisely the same kind of drama.
There are number of things that strike me as most interesting about these shows. Firstly, they throw up some interesting questions on morality. On one level we're supposed to accept that what they are doing is just plain wrong. Murder, Drugs, etc are generally avoiding as signs of societal decline. Yet at the same time they are only acting out of apparently good intentions. Walter cares deeply about his family's welfare after he has passed and Dexter wishes to control a compulsion that would kill innocents. Both characters I feel are presented as sort of twisted superheroes. Not heroic but everyday heroes working hard for a good cause yet ultimately human and not without vice. The kind of superhero whose emergence was inevitable post-Watchmen.
The next thing that interests me is that all these characters have something to hide. Unlike the superhero, it's not their identity (well at least it's a part of their identity). I'm struggling to come up with an elegant and effective way to put this across. Suffice to say that I think it has a social class dimension. Perhaps Bruce can phrase it better in his 1978 impression of working class life :
Everybody's got a secret, Sonny,
Something that they just can't face,
Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it,
They carry it with them every step that they take.
Till some day they just cut it loose
Cut it loose or let it drag 'em down,
Where no one asks any questions,
or looks too long in your face,
In the darkness on the edge of town.
Finally, the third interesting theme I've noticed is that of vice--an axiomatically immoral behaviour yet crucially one that is tempting. Basically everything that Dionysus lords over. Of drug use in particular, the show seems to be questioning by what power is it outlawed. Is it just of the DEA's doing, or something higher up? Is it some morality within each of us that dictates this? And is there a scale of acceptability? These questions have obviously been brought up time and time again in relation to drugs, prostitution, and the killing of another human being. Also, although I haven't seen it, I'm guessing the black comedy drama series Weeds carries much of the same theme. Is all this a result of that obvious Californian liberalism? Or liberalism in general? I'm still not sure if the show's message is whether this is necessarily good or bad. Nonetheless I doubt it'll ever have any real effect in relaxing drug laws.
If I knew anything about writing scripts I'd cash in on this. My idea: a scientist and libertarian working on extracting legitimate medicinal and other uses for marijuana by day, while selling for recreational use by night (and at the weekend). I wonder how far you can push the conservative boundary. How political can you make it?
Anyway, I think that's enough for one node. Maybe I'll come back and expand on some of these points.