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Breaking Bad

... because when we remember the 2000’s as the Golden Age of Television, "Breaking Bad" is one of the main reasons why. Creator Vince Gilligan wanted to tell the story of how an ordinary, middle-aged school teacher becomes a drug kingpin. Seems pretty simple, right? Yet the series, with its compelling, flawed central character tapped into both larger mythologies and anxieties about the American dream.



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Breaking Bad - Bryan Cranston on his Character (Paley Interview)

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Breaking Bad's Vince Gilligan (Full Interview) - Men of the Moment

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The Writer's Cut: Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan Interview - EMMYTVLEGENDS.ORG

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"Besides the crystal-blue color of Walter's product, the colors of 'Breaking Bad' are predominantly blacks, muted greens, yellows and reds. It has been compared to the similar-in-subject 'Boardwalk Empire,' a show colored in faded pastels. Where 'Boardwalk Empire' uses color to evoke a sense of fantasy and surrealism, the color in 'Breaking Bad' suggests a grittier and more visceral take on illegal substance trafficking and its consequences." - Lindsey Barlow While “Breaking Bad” featured excellent writing and performances, the show’s high standards did not end there. The art direction, costume and set design featured a muted color scheme to convey the gritty look of the show. The crystal blue color of the prop meth also played an important role in developing the show’s distinctive aesthetic. Creator Vince Gilligan had an idea in mind for the style of the series. However, he understood that, even as creator and showrunner, he still needed everyone involved with the production – and post-production – to collaborate under the same attention to detail. On the set, no job is truly “below-the-line” in terms of importance.

While the western as a genre is pronounced dead every few years, "Breaking Bad" draws on many of its tropes, motifs and values. Walter's violent rise to the top is a modern day version of manifest destiny, where the frontier becomes a meeting place between savagery and civilization. There is also, of course, the obvious western views on family, as well as protecting or restoring the territory through violence. Yet much of the show’s signature look also draws on the western’s visual tropes, such as the desert or Walt’s iconic hat. Walt’s character even transforms himself into a kind of gunslinger (who always shoots first), as if the schoolteacher from "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" actually shot Liberty Valance. While no one would ever categorize “Breaking Bad” as a western, Vince Gilligan realized the power of the genre’s myths still resonate in a different, more contemporary setting. For makers, consider what other outdated myths or genres might be ripe for reinterpretation.

Walter White’s journey reflects a lot of larger changes in American culture. It's been argued that, due to neoliberal economic policies since the 1960's, middle and working class white males have taken a more aggressive approach to climbing the ranks in order to maintain control of their socio-economic spheres. In other words, it used to be that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you were rewarded for it. Not anymore. Walt, though never explicitly rebelling against any legitimate powers-that-be, is a perfect example of this hypothetical victim. While he starts off as a meek school teacher, his realization that brute force might actually be a viable means of getting ahead leads to his subsequent embrace of violence, intimidation and manipulation as the most logical responses to any threat. Of course, this turns the one-time victim into the victimizer, which becomes the main conflict of the show. Is Walter a thug or still just an ordinary guy driven by extraordinary bad luck?

Resources

Article

Coming Good and Breaking Bad: Generating Transformative Character Arcs For Use In Compelling Stories

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Article

How to Make a Critically Acclaimed TV Show About Masculinity

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Essay

Going West in Breaking Bad: Ambiguous Morality, Violent Masculinity and the Antihero’s Role in the Evolution of the American Western

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Essay

Breaking Bad as a Modern Western: Revising Frontier Myths of Masculinity, Savagery and Empire.

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Essay

Breaking Trauma’s Empire: Trauma and Resolution In Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad

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Book

Breaking Bad: The Untold History of Television

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Cable Guys: Television and Masculinities in the 21st Century

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Script / Screenplay

Screenplay: Breaking Bad (Pilot Episode)

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ScripTipps: Breaking Bad

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Breaking Bad and Philosophy: Badder Living through Chemistry (Popular Culture and Philosophy)

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Breaking Bad: Critical Essays on the Contexts, Politics, Style, and Reception of the Television Series

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Breaking Down Breaking Bad: Unpeeling the Layers of Television’s Greatest Drama

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Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad

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