Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Critical Essay Response

For my final project, I've decided to nix the Oscars Re-visited idea and will instead write a critical essay about AMC's television series "Breaking Bad." Specifically, I am interested in analyzing the main character, Walter White, and evaluating whether his position as both the protagonist and the antagonist reflect the economic and political climates of the United States from 2008 to the present.

I want to ask and potentially answer the questions, Why is Walter White relatable? Why do I root for him/When do I stop rooting for him? Where is the line between good and evil or can it even be determined? How have the political and economic climates shifted since the show's debut and what do they have to do with how I relate to Walter White?

To help get the evaluation process started, I've done a little research. One article I came across in The Atlantic, written by Scott Meslow, posited Walter White as a man who already "broke bad" before the series even started. "In chemistry terms, cancer was merely the catalyst for Walter's transformation: all the elements that have since turned him into a monster were already in place," Meslow stated.

I'm not entirely sure I agree.

I'm not convinced that the Walter White we meet in Season 1 is as "bad" as Meslow makes him out to be. In fact, his visible un-badness is what makes him a relatable, reliable, (even mundane) protagonist. He is a middle American in middle America. His "goodness" makes him familiar.

While Walter does change over the course of the series, I believe the change is gradual- and intentionally so on the part of the producer, Vince Gilligan. If Walter were to transform from relatable protagonist to morally questionable antagonist too quickly, he'd lose his audience.

As Walter White is played, he is still relatable even in Season 5. His actions are still (somewhat) forgivable. He still seems morally ambiguous. There's still hope for him to come back to the "good" side.

This is one point I hope to explore more in my own critical essay. I want to look closely at the moments when Walter's transformation is really solidified (or if it ever is).  It's important to ask why/how/when the boundaries between good and bad are crossed and how they are relative and situational.

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