I can’t help it. Every time I hear mention of the series Breaking Bad (which has been incessant for more than a week), all I can think of is breaking wind. I know I’m supposed to feel like I missed the greatest thing ever to hit TV, but the hype strikes me as so much hot air.
Without exception, everyone who became a fan of Breaking Bad raved about its excellent writing, acting and production values. The rest of us just didn’t watch. Love it or ignore it. Locally the production was a big deal, bringing jobs and stars to Albuquerque and, I’m told, portraying our city and environs with loving attention to detail. Not to mention providing innumerable fluff pieces for the paper.
Our local rag, positively verklempt over the demise of the show, is getting in every banner ad and column inch they can before it goes away and we all forget about it. This has caused a curious juxtaposition of actual hot air stories featuring colorful photos from our annual hot air balloon festival with fan reactions to the Bad series’ ending, and reactions to the reactions, and reactions to the reactions to the reactions.
[Spoiler alert: The show was not real. The characters were not real. No one really died. (All that died were little pieces of our souls). The lead character’s obituary is not real. The newspaper that published it (twice now) is not… Darn! That is what passes for the “paper of record” in this town. I hope someone over there is working on an obituary for Journalism.]
So I missed getting to see our glowing southwestern skies used as a backdrop for drug addiction, murder and mayhem. And I missed seeing actors give superb performances as junkies, hitmen and dying nihilists. And I missed the edgy, brilliant dialogue between characters I would never want to meet about gritty, tough-guy business I hope never to encounter. Everything I heard about the series’ plot was a turn-off: Dying dude needs money, makes meth, kills people…
Sorry, I’m still stuck on meth. My alliterative, pun-prone mind goes right to methane – that’s the stuff cows fart out, right? – breaking bad, breaking wind, breaking bad wind… Childish, I know, but you gotta wonder about the overgrown boys who keep dishing out this nasty, violent stuff. The reason I even bother writing about it is because I would welcome something well written, well acted, well produced, gripping, thought provoking and all of that – that isn’t just another violence-filled story about broken, bitter, ugly characters. I’m looking for something of high artistic quality, but all I get is greed, meth and death?
I want more beauty in my life – front and center, not as a backdrop to crime and despair. It’s pretty obvious that the media is trying to wean us off beauty – and substance, and seriousness, and sensitivity. They make bad things beautiful, I suppose because they think there’s no challenge to making beautiful things beautiful. Besides, in their world, beauty is the bad thing. The pleasure beauty produces suppresses the deep fear response that leads to agitation and a need for some sort of comfort or distraction, i.e. desires that drive us to shop and consume.
Breaking Bad is just one example of how TV and movies condition us to accept violence and desperation as the norm and give up on culture, grace and gentleness. In the contemporary cinematic oeuvre, those “nice” things may only be used to put a frame around or add a contrasting element to the main event, which must always be something shocking, brutal, macho and either morally ambiguous or flat out bad. Bad is not broken, it’s working beautifully for the entertainment industry. And if you ask me, that stinks.