Breaking Bad Analysis

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Breaking Bad: Can a Drug Dealer be Good?

Breaking Bad is a TV series about a chemistry teacher, Walter White, turning to cooking methamphetamine when he realizes that he has terminal cancer, in order to leave behind some inheritance for his family. The show follows Walter as he transforms from a meek and compassionate father to becoming a cold, ruthless drug lord through the (wrong) choices he makes in life. Vince Gilligan created the show with a vision of having the protagonist become the antagonist as the show progresses and to explore the theme “actions have consequences”.

The drama was first released in 2008, during which, America was immersed in the depths of recession after the sub-prime crisis. The struggles that Walter goes through during the start of the program is reminiscent of the hardships faced by American families. This enables the audience to identify with and root for Walter even as he ventures deeper down the path of drugs and vice. This support for the underdog is constantly tested though, as Walter makes one bad decision after another. Finally, Walter completes the ‘breaking bad’ transformation when he is cleared of cancer, but chooses to remain in the meth business purely for excitement.

Breaking Bad also utilizes symbolism and metaphor to build the story. The fungal rot that plagues the family house also symbolizes the drugs that are corrupting his life. When he discovers that his cancer is in remission, he initially decides to stop making meth and to fix his house that is afflicted with rot. At the store when he was buying anti-fungal sprays, he chanced upon someone who was buying ingredients used to create meth as well. While he could have walked away, he actually put the sprays down and threatens his potential competitors to get out of his territory. Thus the fungal rot persists both in his house and in his life.

Applying the domestic-effects model (DEM), the show bombards viewers with violence, drug abuse and disregard for...
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