Breaking Bad

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Desperately Seeking Substance

Pursuit of the superficial is creating a social depression
Tuesday, October 7, 2014, 9:50 PM

Executive Summary

  • As we increasingly revere the superficial, we increase our subconscious craving for substance
  • What the success of Breaking Bad tells us about our confidence in meritocracy
  • The hopelessness of achieving the sold "American Dream" has created a cultural social depression
  • Healthy, authentic social mores will be found in our own making of them, not the idiot box

If you have not yet read The Schizophrenia Tormenting Our Society & Economy available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

In Part 1, we set the stage for an analysis of American TV as a reflection of the cultural schizophrenia created by a widening gap between the few at the top of the celebrity/wealth pyramid and everyone else. TV’s winner-take-all competitions reflect the normalization of our acceptance of a society that produces few winners and an abundance of losers, and of the partial redemption offered by temporary recognition or social-media popularity.

On the surface, such shows reflect our culture’s belief in merit as the arbiter of success: the “best” competitor wins fair and square.  But beneath this superficial elevation of meritocracy are a variety of questions about the critical role of judges (experts) and the rewards of recognition, however fleeting: if the public spotlight is inaccessible, attracting a large number of “likes” for “selfies” photos offers a consolation form of popularity.

That such adulation of celebrity and the gaze of others trigger the loss of an authentic self is never mentioned; asking why draws a blank, as that interpretation of celebrity simply doesn’t exist on the cultural stage.

Let’s continue our exploration of TV’s subtexts by examining the ground-breaking series, Breaking Bad.

The Many Subtexts of Breaking Bad

Let me start by stipulating I am no expert on the series Breaking Bad, or indeed, on any TV series; I am commenting not on the plots or characters per se but on the series’ subtexts.

Many have noted the implausibility of a schoolteacher in America not having health insurance (and also not qualifying for Medicaid), not to mention the premise (that a schoolteacher starts manufacturing one of the most destructive and addictive drugs on the planet, crystal meth, to pay for his cancer treatments).

James Howard Kunstler recently took note of... » Read more