Why I Won’t Watch Breaking Bad

bbadrect011-460x3071As someone who is both a Christian and a lover of good television and well-told stories, whether or not to watch Breaking Bad is something I’ve struggled with for a long time.

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.

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8 comments

  1. The thing is that Breaking Bad is a morality play. Pride goeth before the fall. When we’re introduced to Walter, he’s teaching chemistry and facing bankruptcy from his cancer diagnosis because he walked away from a billion-dollar startup over his pride.

    He cooks meth to try to make enough to provide for his family before he dies, but as it goes deeper, you see all the little choices he makes (he never cheats on his wife, but she cheats on him) that build him up bigger and bigger, some out of self-preservation, but much out of concern for his reputation, his legacy, his product…

    At the same time, he’s an incredibly smart and devious man, and you watch with fascination as he gets himself out of the corners his pride paints him into, how he turns from naive shmoe to crime boss, how he manipulates everyone around him, and the wheels within wheels that are spinning in his head.

    Not much sex in it, but lots of violence. It’s worth the violence for the storytelling.

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  2. I can understand your decision, Brock. I watched the pilot for the first time about two weeks ago, and I myself may decide not to watch any more of it. It is a dark, punch-in-the-gut show, and as realistic as the darkness in it (and its depiction of consequences for “breaking bad”) may be…well, we’ve got to ask ourselves if it’s an object lesson we really need to be taught so brutally. It’s a matter of conscience, I think, but it’s not a matter to be taken lightly at all, and I think it’s wise to err on the side of caution.

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  3. Thank you for writing this, putting it so clearly into words — I’ve felt exactly the same watching tv series that I really liked, and then, midstream, deciding to stop watching them. Revolution was one – probably tame to many, but it gave me that dark feeling, and it seemed to revel in depicting evil.
    I think each generation is more numb to this stuff, but I don’t want myself to be so numb; for me, it’s really a matter of conscience.

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  4. I tried watching Breaking Bad. Honestly, I tried. This is coming from a guy who had a Christian upbringing, but is not exactly an active church goer. That said, my issues with Breaking Bad is the same issue I have with Hollywood in general. Say what you will about how he pays for all the crimes he commits in one form or another. The series still GLORIFIES(in a horrific way) the evil and vile things he does.

    This is Hollywood at its “finest”, and this is people at their “worst”. Do they watch it because they hope he’ll turn around and try and FIX things, or do they watch it because they want to see him FALL apart?

    We all know what drives the Media. It’s old news, pardon the pun. Bad News Sells. Pain is Profitable. Sex is King.

    If the series had been about him trying to get OUT of a mess he was in, would it be as popular, even if as well written? I doubt it. Because it seems Americans(I can’t speak for people outside the US) WANT to see Pain, Bad News and Sex, if only to make themselves feel better.

    Call me cynical but almost forty years of life, watching politics, listening to the media, and having seen what the streets has to offer shows me that by and large, people are more fascinated by the idea of Pain than Pleasure.

    Hollywood encourages it. Shows that have a positive note, even if there are bad things happening, tend to die off quickly. Because Hollywood tries to shovel such shows to bad time slots or get people focused on the more interesting(ie more violence, more drugs, more sex) shows out there.

    Because … Drugs Sell, Sex Sells, Violence Sells.

    Happy News … does not.

    Which is the shame. We NEED to hear the Good News(not referring to religion here) that is out there. We need to see that we can be BETTER than we are.

    Does Breaking Bad show that we can be better? Or does it just show how horrific bad can get?

    To me, its the latter.

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  5. I don’t watch “Breaking Bad”, or “Dexter”, or many of the other shows that are being hyped as “the next big thing”… mainly because I don’t have cable.
    That, in and of itself, is not necessarily the issue… I have no need to watch things that show the sordid, the the venal, the cruel, or the horrific. I see enough of that every day here in Detroit.
    I see the need for programming that may be tough, and occasionally violent, but shows that one person, alone or with a team, *can* make a difference.
    On network TV, I’m passing up most of the new shows like “The Blacklist”, many of the new excuses for situation comedies, and a large percentage of the returning programming… the only ones I’m hanging in with right now are “Elementary” (let’s see what they do with it), “Castle” (I have my doubts about this new season), and “The Big Bang Theory” (They’ve made Sheldon and Rajesh more irritating than usual, and I don’t see where this can go from here)… and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is good so far… I expected as much with Joss Whedon.
    I don’t think that the situation is going to change anytime soon, with the Balkanization of the television audience, exacerbated by video on demand, Internet TV, and the like.
    As for what can be done… I got nothing.

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  6. An interesting conclusion to be made from someone who has gone to laborious extents to give their characters depth. In fact, I find Walter White and Jerry to have a bit in common. Both had a plan they were at first willing to lie for and along the way found themselves carrying the burden of the blood shed from their plans, and both had plans masterfully crafted and and lies that went deep. It’s in using Jerry as an example I hope to budge the mark of your impression lightly where I think it’s off without revealing anything.

    Breaking Bad has some of the best writing on television I’ve ever seen when it comes to the whole picture, the whole human opera. The show truly achieves it’s worth tonight, when the show ends and it becomes a complete piece. It’s honestly well done. There’s no plots that get abandoned or forgotten or brushed away. (Like Dexter) Like in the real world, actions have consequences.

    This is all just the ravings of a fan, of course. A great tragedy should always come with warning labels, and I understand your reasoning for not watching the show.

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  7. Dear allie,
    I understand that generations are becoming numb to this kind of stuff. Its the world we live in, but its better to know this kind of evil than to be afraid of it. As far as this show goes I only caught this show a.few times and I only know a few characters, that being said, the whole idea of a high school chemistry teacher becoming a meth cook is brilliant.

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