I’m a big fan of Breaking Bad. It has excellent writing that keeps you gripped and anxious and entertained and the characters go through fascinating growth. Breaking Bad hooked me from the moment I first saw it advertised on iTunes as: “A high school chemistry teacher turns to making meth to make money to support himself and his family after he discovers that he has cancer” I thought “Wow! This show sounds fascinating!” I knew right then that the show was probably going to be very good. In writing you only have a very short period of time to catch the interest of your audience.
That is why the first opening paragraph is so important. Another skill that is important is the “tag line” which is a one line summary of the book/show/film. A tag line is a hook. It’s what you read on movie posters or on the back of a book that gets you curious just enough to want to know more. Breaking Bad had an excellent hook that summed it up perfectly. I watched all five seasons in about a month. Walter White is one of the best characters in the history of film and books and television. His downward spiral is epic. It was fascinating to watch him slowly change from a weary, depressed High School teacher into a man who felt empowered and dangerous and proud of himself.
What’s scary about Walt is how he justifies all of his actions. Walt could have had a much more successful life but due to his own bad decisions ended up lower middle class and working two jobs he hated. Walt is a greedy, power hungry man. The moment he dips his toe into the world of Meth cooking all he wants is money, money, money and he isn’t afraid to kill to get it. He wants to build the Empire that he felt he should have had years ago. He goes from being a High School teacher to Lex Luther. And the public love him. He’s an anti-hero. Other anti-heroes include Dexter and Batman. There is a difference between them and Walt though. Dexter and Batman are crime fighters who go out each night to try and rid the street of scum. Walt is a greedy, son of a bitch who feeds off the misery of others and is unafraid to crush people beneath his boot if it benefited him. He is out to make money and rule the streets. This is not a man people should be rooting for. And yet people do… and the person they DO hate is his wife, Skyler.
And that puzzles me. Skyler is a victim. When she reveals to Walt that she knows he is a drug lord he refuses to let her out of their marriage or even out of his bed. When she tries to kill herself in the pool he threatens to have her locked up in a mental hospital. Skyler is eventually pulled into his world of crime to protect herself and her kids because she has no other choice. She is Walt’s prisoner. And yet people on the internet despise her and think that she is a harpy, unsympathetic to his cancer, and they hate her for having an affair.
Walter has lied, stolen, kidnapped people, and committed multiple acts of murder and that’s totally acceptable with the audience – even cool – but Skyler’s affair is completely condemned. Now isn’t that interesting? It says a lot about what audiences expect from TV wives and women in general. Crime is cool but adultery? Unacceptable! It’s a little disturbing.
Is the world of TV stuck in the 1950’s? Why must men have all the power but women be condemned for it? A lot of people hate Skyler for how she forced Walt into buying the car wash and how she is spun the tale of his gambling winnings to explain how they got the cash to buy the business. Again people side with Walt. Skyler was right to come up with a story because simply telling people “We found some money on the sidewalk!” was not going to fly.
It was the fact that she came up with a story that cast Walt in a negative light (as a bad gambler) that was the problem. Walt had to apologise for his “bad habits” and that infuriated Walt because all he wants is for people to acknowledge his genius. He wants to shout it from the rooftops but Skyler keeps telling him no.
I really don’t know how anyone could possibly side with Walt and say that Skyler’s act of adultery outweighs everything else Walt has done. It paints a disturbing image of what some people expect from women and how they should act in life. Well done Breaking Bad. I can’t remember a television show that’s ever divided audiences so much before. Breaking Bad fever has gripped almost everyone. How is it going to end? Is Skyler a bad wife? What will happen to Walt? Will Hank catch him? I think we will all be surprised.