Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Breaking Bad and the problem of evil

There has been a bit of debate online about the meaning of evil in Breaking Bad. Chuck Klosterman at Grantland argues that Breaking Bad is a dramatisation of a person deciding to become evil, as an act of willed change:
It's not just that watching White's transformation is interesting; what's interesting is that this transformation involves the fundamental core of who he supposedly is, and that this (wholly constructed) core is an extension of his own free will. The ... (change from Season 1-4) is a product of his own consciousness. He changed himself. At some point, he decided to become bad, and that's what matters.

While Amanda at Pandagon argues that Walt was always evil.
The show isn't about Walt becoming bad when he used to be good. The show is about how Walt is becoming the evil person he always was, but until now has managed to hide from everyone, including himself. The show isn't about how people can fundamentally change. It's more about the conflict between what is expected of someone versus what someone really, truly is. Walt is a fundamentally bad person who has managed to front his whole life

I think these are both great insights from people who have watched the show with care. And both these writers correctly say that part of the impact of BB is that we are made complicit with Walt, and we do root for him. Both these writers like Walt, they just think he's evil.

Perhaps a barometer of where we stand in the 'Walt is evil' spectrum is how gratified we are to see Walt beaten up last week. As Jesse says:
'I'm not saying getting beaten up is something you get used to... But you kind of get used to it.'

I guess I don't see Walt as evil. I am not saying 'oh, we shouldn't judge anyone' - but I don't feel that Walt has moved over to evil. I think his life before the first episode was fake and false. I feel he has become more authentic, more feral, and perhaps he needs to move farther in that direction to survive. Perhaps in some way if he owned his own actions more honestly he would be a better person, not a worse one.

And this show has made me think about what is evil, what is it for a person to be evil. Which is what good art makes you do, think about things even if you don't have an answer.

(cross-posted to breaking_bad)

  • Phew what a scorcher

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