I tried to watch the pilot a couple years ago and made it about 15 minutes in before stopping. Too many F Bombs, a topless woman and an overall dark and depressive feeling to the entire proceedings left me feeling cold and like I needed to spend some time repenting.
Some time passed, Breaking Bad entered its final stretch, and I started hearing from friends at church about how much they enjoy Breaking Bad. They dig the show and don’t have any problems with it like I did. I decided to give it another shot. I did some research and found out the rest of the show isn’t like what I saw. The F bomb doesn’t really appear all that often and nudity is at a minus. Besides, Citizen Kane is my favorite movie. What is that but a movie about one man’s descent into self-destruction brought on by his own selfish choices? I love the movie BECAUSE it’s about that. It’s a great lesson about the kind of lives we should be living. No one wants to end up like Kane.
SO, I queue up the pilot to Breaking Bad again and this time I forced myself through it. There was lots to love, certainly. It’s well photographed, holds your interest, and the psychology of the thing was fascinating. I loved all the actors and their performances–Bryan Cranston in particular is always worth watching, as everyone knows. Loved Aaron Paul, who was new to me. The writing was so, so good. It’s exactly the kind of show I could really get into.
And I won’t watch one minute past the pilot even though I desperately want to. The storyteller in me is dying for the master class I know is just waiting for me on Netflix, but I won’t do it.
I won’t watch again because that feeling I got the first time I watched it–that dark, depressive feeling–never went away. In fact, it only got worse and it wasn’t really coming from the R Rated content that I’d already seen the bulk of two years past. It was just the vibe of the show. Now, I’m told Breaking Bad gets much, much worse as it goes along. Walter White becomes Scarface, I know this. Is that really worse than what became of Charles Foster Kane? I don’t know, but I know that the way Breaking Bad chooses to depict a fall of such magnitude is not something my Father in Heaven wants me, personally, to be watching. I think God often communicates with feelings like the ones I had when I watched the pilot. I do my best to pay attention to them.
Breaking Bad wallows in the evil it depicts. It is, as Blake says, visceral. I don’t think I need to give the devil that much airtime. I don’t think storytellers need to do that to get the point across. I know Kane cheated on his wife without ever having seen him in bed with his mistress. Was the impact of the betrayal of his marriage vows lost because I didn’t see it actually happen? Of course not.
I think there’s a fine line between showing consequences and glorifying them. I’m not saying the show is ever trying to put forth Walter White as any kind of example of what we should strive for, but in its effort to show the evil that one man can do because of his selfish choices, the show revels in the entertainment value of that very evil. This cannot be a good thing. I think it’s the source of that awfulness I’ve felt the two times I’ve watched it. I think it supersedes whatever other benefits may come from watching the show.
To be clear, I’m not saying anyone who watches Breaking Bad is evil or wrong for doing so. I’m simply trying to share my experience with the show, such as it is.
This post was in part inspired by Wes Molebash’s great cartoon on this very subject over at Insert [IMG] and the commentary below by Blake Atwood. I don’t know where Wes lands on this subject, but Blake offers an opposite–yet still Christian–point-of-view. Check it out.
“No, not like that! You’re not supposed to do it all retarded. Don’t act like a bunch of retards.”
Elora’s little sister, Cami, has special needs. Elora is particularly sensitive to the R-Word because of that, but hearing it come from the mouth of a teacher shook her up pretty bad. She told Erin and me that she hears the word on the playground all time. It bothers her, but they’re kids and kids aren’t known for the senstivity. But a teacher? How does that happen?
Here’s thing about the R-Word: getting mad about it doesn’t do any good. Most people who use it don’t understand the damage the word causes, so gently informing is always the better response. We didn’t want to call up the school and demand action be taken against the teacher or yell at the Principal. That wouldn’t do anything to actually fix the problem. And there was a problem. A big, school-wide one.
We wrote an email to the Principal instead, expressing our distress, but also our interest in doing whatever we could to help raise awareness at the school. In an impressive display of leadership, Principal Yang didn’t just send back apologies, but asked to meet with Erin to talk about what Miramonte Elementary could do to help their students and teachers be a bit more sensitive towards those with disabilities.
A few months later, on March 18, 3013 (Cami’s birthday, coincidentally), Miramonte held a Spread the Word to End the Word assembly. It was incredible. Many students came up to read their pledges and some high schoolers led everyone in a chant to SPREAD THE WORD/END THE WORD.
I regret I didn’t record the whole thing, but here’s the featured speakers, Elora and Erin, talking about Cami and what’s so bad using about the R-Word–even when you’re not referring to a person directly.
I think they did an incredible job. Many of Elora’s classmates came up to her afterwards and pledged to stop using the R-Word now that they knew better. If you’d like to take the pledge, please check out the End the Word site right here.
Back before blogs were cool, I used to have a fairly popular one on MySpace. (Well, as popular as a blog on MySpace could be in 2005.) One of the regular, more popular features was transcriptions of conversations I had with my then 3-year-old daughter, Elora. She was world class precocious back then. So much so that I created a supervillain based on her for my online comic. I regret that I ever stopped writing our conversations down, but today I have a new one I just have to share.
Elora is ten now. She doesn’t have her own Facebook account, but sometimes she co-opts her mom’s and uses it to tell me about her day while I’m at work. Here’s what happened:
Elora: Hey daddy, guess what?
Me: Hi Elora. What? Tell me.
Elora: I just beat mommy in a bet! Breakfeast in bed for me!
Me: Haha! What did you bet her?
Elora: She thought that a bearcat was not a real animal. So we bet and googled. AND I DEFEATED HER! FIGHT THE POWER!
Me: HAHAHAHA. Good for you, Elora.
Elora: I know, right! I was rubbing it in her face. Ahh good times.
Me: Haha. Elora, you crack me up.
Elora: And i cannot wait for tomorrow.
Me: Is that when you get the breakfast?
Elora: Yeah. Mommy just said i cheated!
Me: How did you cheat?
Elora: How can I cheat at that? I did not cheat! It was a google! I cannot cheat!
Me: Sounds pretty legitimate to me.
Elora: What does legitimate mean?
Me: Good and right.
Elora: Mommy said you were acknowledging my cheating! I am happy and not happy she said I am too easy. (pouty face)
Me: Haha. No, I was agreeing with you.
Elora: I know. Mommy lied to me. Upset.
Me: Tell her she owes you TWO breakfasts in bed now.
Elora: (devil face) I will….. she said no. Oh well, she is making it. I will tell her three put ups.
Me: Put ups?
Elora: Yeah, it takes three good things to erase one bad thing. Three complemints. g2t, Violet [her younger sister] wants to go outside.
Me: g2t? Please don’t use acronyms with me, Elora. Or at all. But I really loved talking with you. Go have fun.
At 2, Violet is just starting to talk now as well. I think I may need to start paying close attention again.
December 30, 2012 Diapers, Pt. 2: Everything You Need to Know About Parenting Happens on the Change Table
If you think about it hard enough (and, unfortunately, I have), changing diapers is a microcosm of good parenting. Within this one, simple, necessary, incredibly stinky act, is everything you need to know about the difference between a good parent and a truly bad one.
Good Parent: Changes the child’s diaper.
Bad Parent: Does not change child’s diaper. Lets child sit in her own filth.
I’m a friggin’ diaper expert with a combined twelve years of experience across three children. We added the third child, Violet, just because we’re diaper-changing masochists. Credentials.
The dirty, not-so-secret fact about changing diapers is that the kid hates it just about as much as the parent. Violet arches her back and lets out a mighty scream when we strip her down and bust out the wipes. In that moment, she is unhappy. Why do I do that to her? I, her parent, am most concerned about her happiness above all else. I want her to have a joyful, full life in which she spends more time smiling than crying. But I make her cry everyday.
Why? Because I’m her parent. I really don’t care one bit about her happiness in the moment. I’m way more concerned about the kind of a happiness that lasts quite a bit longer.
If I gave in and did what she wanted and left the diaper on her otherwise cute little bum, the whole house would soon stink like wet dog and she’d develop a terrible rash. She either hasn’t figured that out yet or doesn’t care. Kids are myopic like that. All she knows is I’m about to stick a wet rag up her backside and she’d really, really, really rather I didn’t.
You stink, kid. Way it’s gotta be.
I understand in a way Violet does not and cannot (yet) that there are some serious, long term consequences to giving in and letting her sit in her own filth. That’s diapers, but there’s lots of things kids want to do that end with them sitting in their own proverbial filth. Playing video games too much. Not doing their homework. Eating nothing but junk. Watching nothing but junk. Becoming friends with junk.
A good parent steers their kid away from these things, despite their wishes. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always necessary. What’s tricky is that most of the non-diaper filth doesn’t come with it’s own smell. It would be easier if my kid started to stink when she didn’t do her homework, but it doesn’t work that way. So, as a parent, I have to be vigilant. I can’t be lazy. I can’t abdicate responsibility. I’m on duty, 24/7. Always watching, never sniffing. Because that won’t work.
None of this is pleasant. Even after thousands of diapers, I still get a case of I-didn’t-make-this-mess-so-why-do-I-have-to-clean-it-up every time I have to dig in there and play janitor to my kids’ nether regions. I don’t let it stop me though. I’d never say, no, that diaper stinks too bad, I’m not changing it. No decent parent would.
But in our weaker moments–when we’re letting things slide or don’t want that fight–that’s what we’re doing. We’re leaving the diaper on. We’re letting the rash develop.
This is the job, then: to parent despite unpleasantness. To make unhappy now so that happiness may reign later. This is what makes parenting the hardest job in the world. But only if you’re doing it right.
This post functions as a mostly unintentional sequel to “Why Changing Diapers is a Privilege.” Seriously, I never thought I’d have so much to say about diapers.
Erin has been sick this weekend, which leaves me in charge. I don’t mind being in charge, of course, because I love my kids and I’d rather they didn’t die for want of a competent adult. Also, Erin works hard and deserves a break. I suppose she thinks so too and could be feigning illness to achieve said break, but I’d rather believe the scented bubble baths and long, middle-of-the-day naps are for recuperative purposes than some other treacherous reason.
My mom tells me Dad never changed a diaper once. Four boys, not one diaper. On the one hand, that sounds like pleasantly scented heaven. On the other, that’s kind of messed up. Changing diapers is an awful task. Just look at any character in a movie ever who changes a diaper. It’s always presented as the very worst thing a person could be asked to do. It reduces high-powered professionals into all-thumbs morons (see: The Family Man, Jersey Girl, countless others I’m sure).
The truth is changing diapers really isn’t that big a deal. Very few things you do hundreds of times are. Where’s the movie where the parent undresses the kid halfway, removes the old smelly diaper, wipes her clean, applies the new diaper and puts the clothes back on without missing a step on the way up the Lincoln Monument to defuse the bomb? Because that’s how it goes down in my house. More or less.
So, I’ve changed a lot of diapers this weekend. Honestly, besides the foul odor and (forgive me for this) the sludge, I see it as a privilege. There’s very few things in my kids’ lives I can just fix with ease and confidence. Sometimes, they cry and I don’t know why. Cami, my middle daughter with special needs, has a host of problems I don’t know anything about and she has no way to tell me. But her diaper? Yeah, I can fix that. Every time. My success rate? 100%.
It’s only going to get worse as they get older. Crud, with my oldest daughter (long out of diapers), it already has. Every day she has a problem at school or with the new emotions that go along with growing up that I just can’t do a thing about. I’m there for her, I listen to her, but my ability to correct the negative situations in her life is diminishing.
It’s been a good weekend. I like spending time with my girls. Cami isn’t feeling too great either so there’s probably been a bit more movie watching than should be allowed, but that’s okay. Movies make her happy and calm. They’re like a more entertaining version of a clean diaper. I’ll put on a genuine smile and give my kids clean diapers all day long if I have to, for as long as I can.
I know I’ve been mostly absent from this blog for the past little while. This has been a pretty up-and-down year. I was promoted to Art Director at my 9-to-5 earlier, but I’ve also seen my memoir, RAISED BY A DEAD MAN, struggle to find a publisher. I’ll probably write about that frustrating journey at some point, but not quite yet. Suffice it to say, hope is not completely lost, but it’s been rough. More later.
Meanwhile, I thought it might be fun to show off a little of what we’ve been up to at my place of work–the non-profit AIMS Education Foundation. One of my mandates this year was to increase our video production values. This little demo reel shows off both behind-the-scenes clips and some finished shots, along with some of construction we’ve done on the (still not quite yet finished) sets. This is 6 months worth of work in under 5 minutes. We’ve come a long way from not quite knowing which way to point the camera.