I have recently discovered Breaking Bad, and I would like to share some thoughts and concerns with you.
Breaking Bad is a popular TV series that puts on screen the life of a chemistry teacher turned criminal. It is not the first of its kind; Weeds and Dexter for example go by a similar storyline. All three shows are very well written and played; they are imaginative, captivating and therefore quite successful. Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder, is this type of shows healthy for the public?
Here are just three things that upset me about these shows.
Firstly, in all these shows the starting point on the road to all wrongdoing appears to be out of the main character’s control. Nancy Botwin’s husband drops dead one morning, making her a widow struggling to make ends meet; Dexter is severely traumatized as a young child, and Walter White learns he has inoperable, 3rd stage cancer. Now, the fact is, we all go through all sorts of difficulties in life, some hitting us out of the blue. What we do in those situations, don’t you get confused about that, is entirely under our control. Most of us choose (and I cannot emphasize the word ‘choose’ hard enough) to overcome life’s challenges in legitimate ways. I would much rather watch the real story of a regular housewife turned entrepreneur because she became all of the sudden the sole provider for her family, but I just don’t know of any show about that. Why didn’t Nancy work a regular job for several years before deciding to deal weed instead? (and I expect an answer other than ‘Because it’s too damn hard to wake up early everyday and work your butt off for at least 8 hours per day in exchange for just enough money to get by’). Why didn’t Mr. White get a second opinion and treatment before his little career change? Before crying for Dexter remember that Oprah was abused as a child, and she managed to break through that horrible experience and went on to became one of the most successful people on the planet.
Secondly, the motivation for wrongdoing seems positive, making it harder for the audience to keep a zero-tolerance attitude in front of the antisocial behaviors of the main characters. Even Dexter, plainly a very sick gentleman who kills and cuts his victims into pieces manages to get a sympathy vote, since, you know, he only butchers proven offenders (!!). I chew on my popcorn thinking it might be wise for the producers to remind the public more often that sick childhood aside and all, Dexter remains a very bad guy, period.
Thirdly, moral principles are not a big issue with Nancy, Dexter and Walter. While Dexter is a psychopath and is expected to function by a different set of psychological rules, one would expect Nancy Botwin and Walter White to have a harder time adjusting to their new social role. But, infuriatingly enough, they don’t. They are a bit sick at first, but nothing that a beer and a good night sleep can’t fix. They don’t get recurrent nightmares. They don’t obsess about the consequences of their actions. They don’t overeat. None of them fears God. You know what they do instead? They move on, and most disturbingly of all, they start enjoying aspects of their new life.
So? Is life all white and black? No. Are sometimes good people caught in really bad situations? Yes. Would I want my children to watch these series? No. After all, playing ball outside remains much healthier.