The following article is dedicated to my dear friend Elizabeth, who prompted me to question my viewing of the popular show, Breaking Bad. She first asked whether or not I thought the show is a good influence on me. Using Philippians 4:8 (Bible),which talks about thinking noble, honorable, and good things, she gave a quite a bit to think about, which I will put before you here.
Many questions come to mind when I think about this show, such as “Does Breaking Bad glorify violence?” “Does it send out the message that wrongdoing is acceptable in some situations?” “Why do we laugh at the suffering of others? It shouldn’t be funny.” the answers to these questions usually prompt many to not watch shows and or movies such as Breaking Bad or any of Quentin Tarantino e.g., which can also be quite violent.
To start, let’s look at what Vince Gilligen, the author of Breaking Bad, has to say about morals and consequences:
“If religion is a reaction of man, and nothing more, it seems to me that it represents a human desire for wrongdoers to be punished. I hate the idea of Idi Amin living in Saudi Arabia for the last 25 years of his life. That galls me to no end. I feel some sort of need for biblical atonement, or justice, or something….” “My girlfriend says this…’I want to believe there’s a heaven. But I can’t not believe there’s a hell.’…”
In this quote, Gilligen is pointing out the underlying purpose of Breaking Bad. It is to make people aware of the good and bad in the world, as well as the consequences people incur when they do wrong things.
So, What is right and what is wrong? How far is each man willing to go to take care of, protect, or provide for his family? Does the end justify the means? – These are the real questions and each man must answer for himself. It is also true that depending on the answer, one may gain reward or consequence.
Through the show, we follow Walter White, a normal, likeable science teacher, who chooses to “cook” methamphetamine (drugs). He sees everything as “O.K.” through his scientific mind. As time goes on it is only natural to hate him. We continually see what happens to him as he follows down that path and how it affects others around him, especially his family.
In the beginning his motive for this new job is his desire to provide for his family once he is dead from (secret) cancer. He hooks up with a former student of his, Jessie Pinkman, and falls into the drug life. In the beginning his actions and their repercussions cause him to want out, but in the end he continues. His drug dealings lead him into greed. So, though he started with the desire to provide for his family, he ends up pushing them away.
Walter’s partner, Jessie, is the second most important characters in the show. (he is the comic relief.) Though he too is on the wrong track in the drug business, he has his morals and stands by them as often as he can. He does not betray anyone, encourages good in his young family members and holds to what he believes. When he is forced to murder someone, we see him wrestle with it. He sticks to being himself, taking ever assault against his morals seriously. He is against murder, the injustice of harming the innocent, and cheating. He sees those who take drugs as their own masters, they have chosen to lead that life, and its not his responsibility. By removing the drugs and low life, Jessie is the hero, keeping his morals and encouraging good in the young.
I have watched quite a few of the interviews produced by those who are in the show, which by the way, a good way to know the intentions of those behind it. An interesting point that was made in them was, that Walt’s cancer directly influences him. It is his cancer that causes him to act the way he does. As it spreads over his body, his actions and consequence spread out, covering those he loves or interacts with.
Back to the point;
Is watching a show like this bad? (especially for those who follow Christ Jesus.)
I would say that it depends on the person. While I may be able to handle it, others may not. Likeweise for other situations. I also think that depending on how you view the show will influence your decision to watch or not watch the show.
I ask myself, “Does it directly reflect my real life?” It doesn’t for me and I hope the same goes for you. (If it does reflect your life, then I would encourage turning yourself in to the authorities.☺)
Lastly, I look at the grim humor in the show. I used to call it “dark humor”, but truly “what does that mean?” And “Is it a good thing?” I would I would characterize “dark humor” as irony, sarcasm, true yet grim outcomes of stupidity for the point of sharing a message.
For me personally, the show Breaking Bad is an example of ones life when he stretches the moral rules, and crosses the line into wrongdoing. It is not to encourage “breaking bad” in ones own life, but to make you aware of the stark difference between good and bad (no matter how small). Besides the ethical/moral aspect of the show,Breaking Bad shows the drug life, the business, and the duality of it. I see that even normal, sweet people can do bad things too (e.g. Gale or Gus Fring). So while it is not bad in my mind, I would prompt you to make up your own mind be evaluating and thinking it over.
Also: Here is the source for the quotes and an interview which shows the actors take on Breaking Bad.