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Fall 2013 ENG R1B.

001 Clark Chen Diagnostic Essay Assignment Breaking Bad 2-3 pages Due in class and on bSpace on Friday 9/6/2013 AMC Networks hit television series Breaking Bad is widely renowned for revolutionizing household television. The premise of the show is relatively realistic; protagonist Walter White is a high school chemistry teacher who suffers a mid-life crisis when he is diagnosed with lung cancer and is given 8 months to live. Thoroughly unhappy with his familys dismal financial situation, Walter struggles to find a solution to provide for his wife, disabled son, and soon-to-be-addition to the family: his baby daughter. He stumbles upon the idea of entering the meth-making business once he realizes that his brilliant knowledge of chemistry could potentially provide current and future financial support for his family once his cancer runs its course. Thus in the twilight hours of an innocent, loving, law-abiding family mans life, those who watch this mesmerizing series witness the profound transformation of Walter White that shakes the foundations of morality, loyalty, and what it means to love ones family. Viewers are undoubtedly shocked at times to find themselves rooting for Walter White as he becomes, in all aspects, a notorious criminal mastermind. Along the way, they are forced to come to terms with the principle that in real life there is no black and white distinction between good and evil. Rather, blurred lines divide what we like to believe as inherently right or wrong when it comes to judging human nature.

A recent phenomenon has tightened its grasp over popular television; viewers are increasingly attracted to realism. The television series Breaking Bad is a fit example of this transformation, and in turn, the transformation reveals a great deal about contemporary reality. Contemporary reality is filled with difficult decisions, emotion, strife, tension, joy, and all things in between that make us human. Prior to this transformation, television and movies were predominantly built off templates that clearly depicted the good guys and the bad guys, and viewers found this form of entertainment appealing as it allowed them to escape reality and immerse themselves in a world in which things were unrealistically simple. A fitting model to describe contemporary reality would mostly be the polar opposite of any Disney movie. Life is most definitely not a Disney movie and, perhaps, there is no true good or evil. Walter White remains a caring father and husband despite his transformation from pushover chemistry teacher to renowned and feared drug lord. This dichotomy of principles that Walt embodies is as complicated and complex as society itself. How are we to judge a man who makes and distributes meth in order to provide for his family once he dies of cancer? The plot tugs on the heart-strings of viewers because as far-fetched as the plot of Breaking Bad seems, the characters paint realism into the show as they deal with the same emotions that makes all our lives complicated on a daily basis. Breaking Bad is a paradigm for contemporary reality because it forces us to question simple qualities and issues such as love for ones family, loyalty, and murder, and simultaneously obfuscates the ability to discern between good and bad. In essence, contemporary reality, similar to many of our thoughts, lives, and society, is messy; Breaking Bad illustrates just that. My experience with Breaking Bad has been generally enjoyable and has helped me reach the conclusion that it is tremendously difficult to judge anything as right or wrong. Morality is

always seen through the lens of some degree of bias, no matter how lucid the situation may seem to be. In addition, our human intentions rarely match their particular outcomes, but through it all, I myself have decided that the best any member of society can do is to strive for his or her own personal vision of what it is to do good and benefit the world that we are inherently a part of. In regards to my own contemporariness, my experience of Breaking Bad has left me believing that we, the royal we, are all contemporaries. This theory opposes that of Agamben; there is no particular set of necessary qualities one must have in order to be a contemporary. Every individual is a vertebra of the backbone that is society. It is safe to say that no two people have completely identical thoughts and opinions on anything in particular, television included. Our perception of the world in which we live and our roles in it are all genuinely unique; this ironically common singularity that we all naturally possess provides a plethora of ways to view our past, present, and future. We all learn, develop, and grow in different ways, and this universal concatenation of differences shapes the way in which society develops. Ultimately, Breaking Bad and other forms of media, literature, and knowledge have led me to the conclusion that as a contemporary, I must have and keep an open mind; this acceptance of our universal difference will bring about an understanding of our past to shape a better future with what time and resources we have in the present.


"AMC" N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Sept. 2013. "Breaking Bad." N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Sept. 2013. <>.