I think we can learn a lot about other people, and in this case the dominant culture in America, by learning about what they really enjoy also; what entertains them. Just as with Orange is the New Black, I first learned about Breaking Bad from none other than NPR.
It was everywhere, from Terry Gross to Charlie Rose. Smart people were talking seriously about this show which is filled with many wrongs. The main character is evil. He makes meth. He was involved with Mexican drug cartels. He’s killed many people in atrocious and violent ways.
Yet, for some reason, we root for him. We don’t want him to die because we want more shows to watch, even if we know only evil awaits us.
I love Breaking Bad. It is one of my favorite series on TV. I think it is an intelligent series, from how Walter White speaks about his love affair with chemistry, to illuminating very serious problems in society today.
One does not need to go very far at all to see the strong racism embedded in the show. The main character is the White man after all; Walter White. The only other Walt’s that ring a bell in popular culture are Walt Whitman and Walt Disney with his Snow White.
Issues of poverty arise right away. Walter White went to college and teaches at a high school and yet has to work at a car wash after school just to pay the bills.
Indeed. The problem that is at the base of the show is that White finds out he has cancer. The treatment costs way too much. His rich friends offer to pay the bills but his pride forbids him from accepting their money. This reminds me of one of the lines I heard in the documentary about America’s 1%; one of the biggest fears – the “cucuy” or “llorona” to Mexican people – to the richest people is healthcare. Usually the patriarch in the family made the billions, and the rest of the family just has to behave to a certain extent in whatever they do to occupy their time. Fears of being cut out of the family inheritance are raised by the elder simply saying “what if your kid gets sick? Don’t you want the best healthcare for him?”
Thus Walter White has cancer and only a year or so to live. He is going to live his family with major debt, especially if they try to extend his life a bit with the costly therapy. Did I mention his son has cerebral palsy? Oh yeah, and he gets his wife pregnant early on in the series and now they have a little newborn, and her future, to deal with as the drama enfolds.
What can the White man leave behind for his kids after the cancer takes over?
The Whites are good American folk that live in the suburbs, and Walter’s brother-in-law Hank is the husband of Walter’s wife’s sister who are both very close, and Hank is a top DEA agent.
One day Walter rides along with his DEA family member, to learn what real men with real jobs unlike the chemistry teacher, and realizes how much money can be made in meth, and how much of a superior product he can make as a chemistry genius over these amateur meth heads. On one of the ride-alongs he sees an old student of his escaping the scene of a crime. Walter goes to the meth-dealer, his former student Jesse Pinkman, to ask him to sell the product he is going to start making.
This is where even more White Privilege enters in. His new partner is a teenage punk loser who deals meth, and he was supposed to be killed off in the first season, according to the producer, but he kept him along. Now the two main stars of this AMC (which I always knew as the old black-and-white classics channel) show are two meth dealers.
But it’s okay, because they are white, and their background matters. We can relate to it.
Without giving a detailed breakdown of all 5 seasons, we meet el mero meros, the top drug dealing elite in existence. We have the black Chilean who has beef with the Mexican cartels, and this whole show takes place in Albuquerque, just north of El Paso which has Ciudad Juarez on the other side of the border fence.
You see just how evil the Black and Mexican criminals are. But guess what? They all die. They are all just thugs anyways, selling that shit on our streets that is killing our youth. Hell awaits them all.
But in this show they die because the White man keeps beating them, taking first their land and now their trade, using their superior Western Civilization and Science to defeat these primitive tribal peoples. Walter White IS the NPR listener after all, and he knows how to look stuff up on the internet and do his own research and he is always MacGuyver, able to make deadly pills out of backyard plants.
If these thugs just knew how to run a business like corporations, get a concigliere and accountant, and get real scientists that went to grad school…
Now comes the other side of the story. The consequences.
Well, so far by the end of season 5 all the black and brown people have died.
The DEA agent’s wife is a kleptomaniac but never gets in trouble (more privilege). Meanwhile the DEA agent rises to become the top drug-hunter around, and yet never realizes that “Heisenberg” is right there across from the dinner table from him.
But why should he suspect him? He’s white after all!
I mean he’s family, but don’t family members of white men tend to be white also?
So all this crime is going on and because of White Privilege, the meanest and most evil criminals go unsuspected.
If that was not enough racism for you, Season 5 ends with the ultimate racists (no not the nice and phony Democrats); Walter White makes a deal with neo-Nazis who are now his hired guns. It is because of these White Supremacists that White supremely gets away with his sins and crimes.
Why do we have even the slightest sympathy for that devil when we just blindly hate all Mexicans crossing the desert as terrorist drug mules? Why are these Mexicans just “illegals” or “aliens” while this mastermind is “Walter White” and “Heisenberg” who is just trying to watch out for his family, just like Vito Corleone tried to do?
Why does he have dimension and depth, while Mexicans don’t even have humanity?
Who knows, maybe even Piper from Orange is the New Black was hauling their drug load from the Czech Republic, and she’s also that good educated white women who doesn’t deserve to be in jail either with these real thugs. Or even if she does, she still retains her humanity somehow?
Why do we look down on meth users as the scum of society but then look the other way as we dose our kids with Ritalin or Adderall once they get to college? That is meth also; legal speed.
The meth dealer trying to feed his family is a dog, but the meth user who wants a better grade on a test he never studied for is one of us.
Now in the final season all we have left is white on white violence that awaits us; all the minorities have been killed. There’s the corporate head of the new operation, who has the White Supremacists working for her now. There’s Walter White versus Jesse versus the DEA Agent brother-in-law.
Will the evil White Man ever go to jail?
My prediction is no; he will die before American Justice ever catches up to him… Cops are too busy profiling the minorities on the other side of town to see what lies in their own communities… And families.