Breaking Bad and the Drug Underworld - Walter White's Perspective
“What is going on with me is not about some disease. It’s about choices. Choices I have made. Choices I stand by.” - Walter White
One of the most popular shows of our generation is AMC’s drama, Breaking Bad. The show chronicles Walter White; a brilliant chemist stuck teaching high school chemistry in New Mexico. When White finds out that he has lung cancer, and believing he’s going to die, he begins cooking methamphetamine so that he can provide for his wife, disabled son, and unborn daughter. As we see White descend further into the criminal underworld of New Mexico, we begin to see two separate worlds form. There’s the world we like to believe we live in. This is a world of enlightenment and morality, where people are good and decent and play by the rules. Running alongside it is a shadow world. Right beneath the curtain of our lives, beneath the veil, is a world of rot and savagery, where old rules apply, and our enlightened society is little more than a façade.
As Walter White’s narrative evolves, we see a transformation in him as he begins to accept what he’s becoming. In the show, White describes chemistry as “growth, then decay, then transformation”; and this is a sentiment which manifests in him.
The Tao of Walter White
When we first see him in the show, he is portrayed as a good man who is doing a really bad thing for really good reasons, and it’s easy to sympathize with him because of this. He is after all, choosing to become a criminal so that he can provide for the people he loves most. When he’s forced into violence, he struggles internally with the moral implications, because, as he will later in the show say to his lawyer, he simply can’t be the bad guy. Due to this internal struggle, he stands with a foot in each world. On one hand, he tells himself that he’s still the hero of his story, and that all of his actions are justified, but on the other, he sees the monster behind his eyes in the mirror and likes what he sees. Ultimately, he embraces that more primal aspect within himself.
Breaking Bad and The Duality of Human Nature
Throughout the show, a running theme really is on the duality of our society. White, as discussed earlier, embodies this duality, but it shows all throughout the story as well. Criminals can’t be identified because they wear a black hat. They are our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones. This is part of what makes the shows portrayal of the criminal underbelly so intriguing, and realistic. It is very rare to come across someone who is pure good or pure evil. We all have that capacity within ourselves, that’s what makes a person good or evil. You can’t have one without the other. Every light casts a shadow, and in the end, it’s about the choices we make, and the ones we stand by.