Monday, September 30, 2013

Ending Well

Walter White, that nasty anti-hero from AMC's Breaking Bad, certainly had it coming. He was a non-tribal uncaring selfish jerk, and he was so because most of us believe that part of what it means to be human is to have a natural affinity towards  other humans. White? No so much. If anything throughout the show's 5 seasons he only develops a natural affinity towards his own self. What makes you happy? Walter White would and does say "I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it, and I was really, I was really alive."

So why do we love this unloveable jerk? We love him like we loved Archie Bunker before. Where Bunker would say the things from his armchair that we wanted to but couldn't. With White it would've been the end of Meathead. White got up from his armchair, made the choices, did the deeds that deep down Bunker only wished he could.

We love it because it our theology-cosmology-sociology is affirmed by it. That in Breaking Bad we see a social structure that exists which we've been conditioned to believe that if we support it will result in a "good" life. Go to schoo,l graduate get a good job, love your wife, and the result is more than fulfilling.

It's a lie and we know it, but it's the best lie we've got. It's a lie  evil and death and cancer, murder, revenge, all prove that it's a lie. We aren't really happy in the network just waiting for the inevitable Bad. It really isn't satisfying and what's worse is that the social structures we find ourselves in have no response to, no answer for, death and evil. What rings true for us in Breaking Bad is that Walter is ultimately alone, he feels it, and we feel it. His social network is helpless against that which is ultimate, and so is ours. So we hope beyond hope that he can Break out of the trap he's in.

We need a hero. Who shall rescue me from this body and soul of death? Certainly not his friends and relations. Finding no hero. What becomes helpful for White, helpful for his soul, is that he still has a choice. He can rescue himself, but to become a hero Walter White must reject what he has been told… that he is a social being.

Don't we wish for heroes? Even if they only just boldly declare what we feel is true from their armchair, don't we want someone to do that for us? Even if they are full of evil but do it all for "us".

Maybe Breaking Bad is attractive because as a society we feel we are given nothing but pre-determined Calvinist-fatalist choices. Choices forced upon us by our collective societal relations. We feel trapped in this machine, and we cheer for a White who fights, not just shouts but really fights against it. White, who chooses a life of meaning for himself, despite and in spite of the so-called choices he's been given. In the end Walter's death is society's gain, which for us who remain "feels" right, because we hope for one who can find a good life for us in the face of evil and death when we cannot do so ourselves.

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