I recently started watching this show Breaking Bad…
Sorry, that sentence should read, “I recently started understanding a show called Breaking Bad.”
I fully understand that I am late to the Breaking Bad party… it’s been on for a couple of years and it’s been raved about since oh, 10 minutes after the first commercial break. For those of you who don’t know, Breaking Bad is about a guy named Walter White (played by the guy who was the father on Malcolm in the Middle) who is a chemistry teacher with terminal lung cancer who starts producing Crystal Meth in order to provide for his family (which would have made for an interesting sub-plot on Malcolm in the Middle. ) I tried to get into the show, I really did. But I just couldn’t get past the first few episodes. I didn’t like it. I found his wife unbearable, his kid was too “perfect TV version of a kid” the wife’s sister was just annoying, and I found the team up of Walter and his assistant and former student Jesse unlikable.
But then I continued on the advice of a friend and most of the internet, and I realized what I was doing wrong. I was trying to empathize with Walter. I wasn’t supposed to. Walter is a tragic hero defined by his flaws. Walter White is a Shakespearean tragic hero in the vein of Othello, the Scottish guy (It’s bad luck to say “Macbeth"), King Lear, or Hamlet. After realizing that, and realizing that I was not watching a sympathetic man just trying to help his family, I’m watching the destruction of a man who thinks he is helping his family.
Breaking Bad is the perfect example of a point I’ve tried to make time and time again that we can’t push aside new literature for the sake of old. And Breaking Bad is literature. Had Crystal Meth and High School Chemistry existed in Shakespeare’s time, we would have heard about The Tragedy of Walter White, Teacher from Venice, and kids would have hated reading about it. This television show is full of all those lessons your English teacher (and soon hopefully, me!) have tried to tell you about why Shakespeare was so great: flawed heroes, scheming, guilt, symbolism, death, redemption… there is even a Shakespearean fool in it! The character of Saul Goodman is a flashy, late night attorney, that is a genius when it comes to the law, genius when it comes to illegal activities and yet brings humor to a television show that featured a man crashing two airlines into each other.
I could go on, and I probably will at some point. This post is meant to be an appetizer in a television show that really can only be described as “Shakespearean”. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend trying to watch it. It is currently in its last season, but that’s no reason why you can’t check it out. God invented DVD’s and streaming television for a reason. (He did invent that, right?) And I realize this is coming across as an advertisement for AMC and this show, but let’s be honest that my only real sponsor is Carl’s Jr.
But I really haven’t been excited for a television show in a long time. I plan on exploring more about this show over the next few weeks, and more on why I think that it’s Shakespearean. So, stay tuned, everyone!