I will resist the urge to summarize part one of this review. If you missed it, and you’d like to read it, click the link titled “Breaking Bad” on the left side of this page.
My analysis of this series as a Myth for The Artist involves two theses.
1. Breaking Bad is an example of the classic “Faustian Bargain”, updated to fit our current 21st century culture.
2. Hmm… I think I will hold off on two for a while. Preserve the serialized aspect.
I can’t tell you when, in the History of Academia, some aspiring Student realized that the Myths we tell our children are symptomatic of our metaphysical worldview, but I know the method behind this madness goes back at least as far as Aristotle. He was forever starting with conventional ideas and polishing them for the truth [as he saw it].
The classic modern example is illustrated by [almost] everything Freud wrote. I have no doubt that the enduring hold “The Oedipal Complex” has on our culture is owed far more to the method by which it was “proved” than the idea which undergirds it. If I am being obtuse, let me be acute.
When Freud made his claim that human males desire their mothers and want to kill their fathers, I’m not sure anyone would have taken this claim seriously if he hadn’t worked back through his knowledge of Greek Mythology and remembered Oedipus, Jocasta, and Laius. Their story is Freud’s idea. Oedipus Rex by Sophocles had been [even before Freud immortalized it as a complex] one of the foundational pieces of Western Drama.
Because of the strength THE STORY of Oedipus has on our Western Mind, Freud had to do very little proving of his idea. I confess that even though I’ve read most of what Freud wrote, I remember nothing [it’s been over 20 years] about how he “proved” it. In my mind the proof runs like this:
- If a Story survives the death of the culture which birthed it, then that story is a Myth.
- Every Myth represents metaphysical beliefs humans have about other humans.
- These beliefs are TRUE because they are BELIEVED.
- Oedipus Rex is a story that survived the death of its culture.
- Oedipus Rex is a Myth.
- Therefore: The Oedipal Complex is true.
This is not [strictly speaking] a valid or sound argument. Premise Three does all the work, and is wildly unsupported. However, the form of this argument is now part of the History of Academia. It is used over and over again to make claims about the human psyche.
I have not been interested in psychology for some time, so the last book I read that used the form of this argument was Iron John by Robert Bly. Even that tells you that AT LEAST as late as 1995 [that’s when I read the Bly book] the argument form listed above was still being used to formulate psychological hypotheses. (1)
I am now in a position to claim that Breaking Bad is, as mentioned above, a 21st century version of the Christian Myth known as the Faustian Bargain. In all the versions of this Myth, the hero of the story trades his soul for worldly gain. In almost all versions of that story, the bargain comes with a time limit. In other words, the “Faust” character will get her worldly gain for a predetermined number of years, after which she will go straight to hell.
It did not satisfy me, that I could only trace this back as far as the Medieval period, so I thought about it for five more seconds, and remembered Demeter. It’s possible that everyone recognizes the seeds of The Bargain in Demeter’s deal with Hades about her daughter Persephone, but thinking about Walter White’s story was the FIRST time I ever made that connection.
At any rate, I was highly satisfied with my developing hypothesis. I could trace it back as far as the Greeks, and really, for Academic Purposes, that is always far enough. I thought for some time I would name my about to be revealed complex, The Ceresian Complex. Ceres, you will remember, is the Roman name for Demeter.
Eventually, I decided: Eff it. I am no academic. My complex will be called:
The Walter White Complex
It will be about an artist’s relationship with A Devil that is no longer physical. The demons are, and always were, inside. Who better to realize this than The Artist?
- I believe the form of the argument listed above is valid and sound. Someday I hope to write the book that proves statement three is true.