Skip to main content

TV Review: Breaking Bad

On the insistence of a close friend, I agreed to try watching Breaking Bad. I'm late, I know, but when I first heard about the TV show I didn't think it sounded like my kind of TV.  Am not a drugs and violence sort of girl, but I was told that this theme was somewhat superficial and that really the show has a lot of heart and was emotional at times.

After watching the first episode, I could somewhat see where the story was going. I could also say that I was not going to enjoy it, though I continued to watch the whole first series, and can now definitely say that the show is not my cup of tea!

Now that's not saying the show isn't good, I don't dispute that. But the thing that struck me while watching the show was how it conforms to racial stereotypes, in fact, it seems the whole appeal of the show is rooted in our understanding of racial stereotypes.

Walter the lead character, has spent his whole life being a law abiding citizen. He works 2 unsatisfying jobs to make ends meet, despite having had a very successful career as a scientist. Shortly after his 50th birthday he is diagnosed with lung cancer, which will financially damage his family, so he comes to a decision to cook crystal meth with an ex-pupil.

The show charts his journey in the drug's game to leave his family financially stable, as well as to pay his medical expenses while undergoing cemo. Though my question is, if Walter wasn't white would this still be good TV?
I assume the appeal of the show is the morally gray area Walter is put in. As he is supporting and profiting from the drug's trade, yet we know he is a good man, try to support his family. But how much of what we know of his good character is unconsciously based on his skin colour?

Would the storyline still be valid if Water was a black man? Or would we think that as a black man, Walter would have to have some ‘street smarts’. In the white Walters case, his DEA brother-in-law is always mocking the fact that Walter has lived such a clean and sheltered life, though if he were black, would this still be plausible?
He doesn't have to be black, the same question could be said of Walter being Latino. Conveniently the show depicts Latino characters as being in the drug trade, deceitful, crazy and violent. From the regional drug dealer Krazy-8, his drug cooking cousin Emillo, to to his honest living father who makes a living ripping his customers off with extended warranties at his furniture store. So could Walter be Latino?

Walter is validated by being white, since our understanding whiteness is of being wholesome, honest and good. Or at least less criminal. Yet the facts that Walter kills 2 men, robs and destroys some guys car (not to mention cooks drugs) seem to be reason to we the viewer should be sympathetic and pity him, since it's the cancer making him do it, he's only trying to support his family before he dies.

This is why I feel uncomfortable watching the show as I don't feel pity for him, nor can I remain sympathetic to the character while he learns to enjoy being bad! I don't find any humor is this middle class white man resorting to using his intelligence to cook 'high grade' crystal meth out in a trailer in the desert, then coming home to his unsuspecting family.

While the Latino drug dealing characters in the show is portrayed to enjoy this line of work and enter into it by choice, I actually don't see much difference between them and Walter, especially considering the social disadvantages many experience being of the non-white race. They may not have cancer like Walter, but their intentions are not dissimilar, and they both share a reduced life expectancy! So how, as the viewer, can we have sympathy for Walter yet despise the Krazy-8's of the show (or of life)?

It's not only male whiteness that is able to bend our moral codes in the show. In an episode close to the end of the series, Walters pregnant wife Skyler is detained in a shop after returning a stolen gift she was given by her sister. I found it comical that Skyler (being white) was able to get away from the store by pulling the 'baby card', and while I watched I was just thinking 'what would the chances be of a black woman getting out of a situation like that without the police arriving?'
With the kleptomaniac sister storyline only confirming my observations that, race plays a very important role in the show's success.

I'm not saying people can't enjoy the show, but it does make me question and be concerned about the normalcy of racial stereotyping, the significant role they play in validating narratives, and how digestible these concepts are on  mass audience.


Popular posts from this blog

Music Review: The Weeknd Trilogy

Rarely do I buy new music these days, with it being even more of a rarity that I buy music from male artists. Reason being that I just can not stomach the lies and hypocrisy commercially viable male solo artists spin with their predictable music and unoriginal public image clashing fiercely with the reality of their private lives.

With music today being so limited in the topics sung about and (in making myself sound old - which I'm not) the lack of experience, soul and true artistry in today's predominately young artists, I was surprised and delight to find out about Canadian singer The Weeknd. I'm told that this artist has actually been around for a while, though it is only now that The Weeknd's music is reaching commercial heights with the song Wicked Games played regularly on the radio. While I have liked the song since hearing it, it wasn't until I had seen its music video that I really became interested in what this young male solo artist has to offer.


Rise Of The Beta Male

Interesting article in last week’s Shortlist discussing the demise of the 'Alpha' male and rise of the 'Beta' male.
In a nutshell, the article was discussing recent culture changes in male behaviour and attitudes which has contributed to the emergence of the Beta male.
Beta males are smart sensitivity men who invest in their appearance, they are said to have turned their backs on the old Alpha male ways of male domination, aggression and exploitation, instead they embody intelligence, charisma and are liberal thinking. According to the article beta males are changing the way we do business!

I was pleased to see that the article had made a connection with this new male attitude and behaviour to the adaption (for the better) to the feminist movement and the study's of masculinity, since the process of women demanding and slowly achieving gender equality has encouraged many men to relieve themselves of the emotional castration once promoted as the alpha male image of…

Dove Labels Skin Tones Fair, Normal and Dark

Tut tut tut at Dove for this, the people that loves every type of skin on every type of body seems to think their is such a thing as normal skin, what that is I would really like to know!
While I can understand that the Dove product is said to heighten one natural skin pigment for a 'Summer Glow' I don't think it appropriate that they labelled the product suitable for 'fair to normal skin' or 'normal to 'dark skin'.

This is wrong on so many levels and could have been avoided had they used the word medium instead of normal. I'm not angry though it does highlight the existence of racism (for anyone in doubt) and also exemplifies how those who hold influental social/cultural/political roles still uphold racist ways of thinking.