How ‘Breaking Bad’ Broke America

The mischievous appeal of Breaking Bad is palpable. The five-season series has won more awards than most shows can ever imagine. Breaking Bad caught massive eyes on both AMC and Netflix. But what exactly was the appeal? What did Breaking Bad do right, or rather, what did America do wrong?

Can America see through the drama and entertainment appeal? Walter White was an old chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin while still holding down a family. Each season saw his morals go down while ratings climbed, as if, somehow, in the end he would turn around. Or maybe people were enamored with the whole idea, the audacity of a show that gives the drug trade color, and that gives the people in the drug trade character. It lacks conscience, yet it’s still there, and people seemed to love it, or hate it, but for whatever reason they just kept watching.

The show’s writer Vince Gilligan did great things with The X-Files, but he seems to be either ambivalent to the effects of Breaking Bad on the youth, even when presented with terrible examples. That’s why I can’t understand why even two years after the finale, people are still seeking out Breaking Bad.

In an interview with Vulture, Gilligan was presented with a series of questions about violence in Breaking Bad.

“Hopefully, it doesn’t need to be said that you don’t want to inspire evil and madness and hatred in any way, shape, or form. It’s not going to stop me from writing. It’s not going to paralyze me. But those moments give you pause.”

He was given another question about his responsibility as a writer to people who might emulate what they see on the show.

“I don’t think there should be any kind of edict or mandate imposed by anyone else. However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a writer in my position to know where to draw the line him- or herself. It’s up to the writer to know the difference between a dark story that is basically instructive and a cautionary tale.”

The bigger question is whether Gilligan would ever choose to aknowledge this about his own works. In the same interview he learned for the first time how his shows were both inspirational and instructive to Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Questions remain if America will continue to see shows like Breaking Bad as entertainment.

[Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images]