Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Breaking Bad Shakespeare: Lady Macbething as an Art Form

Once again, a note: We’ll be talking about some of the more recent developments on Breaking Bad. If you haven’t watched them when they aired, downloaded legally or illegally, read the recaps, or hired Bryan Cranston to be the scariest clown at your birthday party, then I’m assuming you don’t care if you’re spoiled. And if you care that you’re spoiled at this point, then please look up the word “apathy” in the dictionary. 

Today, I’m going to do a little something for the ladies. Hello, ladies...

At this point in the show, both Skyler and Marie are being drawn more and more into the world of Walt aka Heisenberg, and Hank aka.... Jesse puncher. And as we do, the term, “Lady Macbeth” gets thrown around a LOT. Like, all the time. Skyler is all Lady Macbeth because she’s all like “what’s one more person?” in the killing of Jesse Pinkman, and Marie is like Lady Macbeth because she’s like “So are you going to sacrifice him” about being Jesse Pinkman... (You know, at this point the last scene should just be Pinkman dancing on all of their graves.)

I don’t really think that means what people think it means. (Yay. Princess Bride references. Tune in next week when I work in Miracle Max.)

William Shakespeare... you mind if I call him Billy? Billy really enjoyed writing his characters, but he wasn’t really known for writing “strong female characters.” Ophelia kills herself pretty much because of Hamlet. Desdemona lets herself be strangled. Viola, who’s often held up as “look, here’s a strong female character because she takes charge!” is almost found out because she falls in love with the guy she’s “helping.” So many times, when someone wants a strong female character, they throw Lady Macbeth into the mix, and say, “hey... she’s pretty strong!” And she is. She’s also pretty take charge. 

Macbeth is set back when Regicide was pretty illegal, and not just what Archie wanted to do in many issues of his comic. To even discuss it usually got you a pretty hot date with Madam Guillotine. So, it’s important to note that the entire scene where Macbeth comes home and talks about his crazy day of meeting witches and being told that he’s going to be in charge of the throne he was talking about eventually, when the king died. Lady Macbeth talked him into it, just barely. Then later, when she’s all like, “frame his guards!” and Macbeth is all like, “no” she’s the one who walks into the room, then frames the guards. 

Then she promptly kills herself out of guilt. Suicide... it’s what Shakespearean women had for dinner, apparently.

Regardless, let’s go back to my point, rather than a paragraph I framed around making a pun about Reggie and regicide. Skyler and Marie aren’t really Lady Macbeths so much as they’re just fighting on their respective sides of the law. Even when they have the tense/wonderfully framed scene around the table side guacamole, Marie dedicates most of her hatred towards Walt, not her sister. 

The issue continues to be that the women, while stronger than they were at the start of the series when they basically were props to get Hank and Walt to have an active relationship, then to have Walt have something to do, but they still aren’t doers. 

Skyler probably comes the closest to Lady Macbething the whole thing up. She does take an active role in the money laundrying scheme with her magical accountant skillz. She has a few plots of her own, like getting her kids out of the house, but most of her killing is relegated to wanting to kill Jesse Pinkman. (Damn... it really sucks to be Jesse Pinkman this season.) Most of her plotting has been to get Walt AWAY from the Meth, AWAY from the dangerous life... 

I know that Skyler actress Anna Gunn recently wrote an op-ed to the New York Times that talked about the reasons everyone seems to hate Skyler. One of the more interesting points is that she thinks it has to do with the fact that “she’s Walt’s equal.” Here’s the thing: She’s not, really. That’s not to say she’s not smart, she’s not capable... she was the one cooking the books, not Walt. I think when making this argument people tend to forget just how manipulative and.... quite frankly how evil Walt is. Skyler’s whole point has been getting herself out of the predicament that Walt got her in, and while she’s shown some signs of manipulation (the earliest being those annoying scenes where she made Walt’s cancer all about herself) she hasn’t quite gone to that level. Even this week, when she wanted to kill Jesse, she wasn’t willing to go the whole way... she couldn’t even say, “kill him” just hint at it.

Skyler and Marie are certainly an interesting pair. I’m going to be interested to see where this goes next... well, I’ll just hit up some random speculation. What will really be interesting is to see what is going to happen once Walt and Hank are removed from the situation, either by Uncle Jack or... let’s just say other means. (My prediction: Walt is kidnapped and forced to cook for Uncle Jack, Hank is probably kidnapped as well and used as bait. This will take us to the time jump we’ve seen at the start of Season 5.) Right now they are women defined as their relationship to their husbands. Which while similar to Lady Macbeth, it was pretty evident that she wasn’t defined by her husband so much as she was trying to lead him to a fancier life. Right now they're not so much Lady Macbeths as something else entirely.

Of course, for all the speculation of who Walt is going to kill, let's just say that this world as a Shakespearean Tragedy isn't as kind to it's women. 

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