Breaking Bad 7

breaking-bad-season-5-split-tvAfter that last episode in this series of articles, I believe I have announced [while still managing not to say it] why this popular television show has driven me straight into my second critical rut. [The Coens were my first.] I saw within the Breaking Bad Universe, a lynchpin for all my Refabracative ideas.

No one has ever denied that my story analysis techniques are among the best they’ve ever read. [Even with my exceedingly low profile, I still average one email a month in which someone discovers [and then praises] my analytical approach to story. Until Breaking Bad, I had a method [Bowdlerizing Kant or Refabrication] and a metaphysical principle [Art begets Life], but I was without a unifying thesis which could act as the web to link all my ideas. By accident, Breaking Bad gave me that web.

Every story is a metaphor for the artist’s journey toward resonance.

THIS is the idea with which I will begin all future analysis. Every story [and in the wider, as yet unproved web, EVERY creative endeavor] is an attempt by the Artist to reconcile the pressure to achieve resonance within the demands of belonging to a wildly social species. The Artist is not an acceptable occupation for humans, and yet this article and everything we hold as unique about ourselves would be missing without her. There is a fundamental antimony of human psychology present in the drive to be creative. If I am creative then I am not human… Or in the already sketched terms of this series of articles:

I am a psychopath.

The moment in which I realized all these ideas in the show is when Walter walks in on Jesse and Jane after they have put themselves into a heroin induced stupor. As he watches them, Jane begins to choke to death on her vomit. Walter moves to save her… and then decides against it. He lets Jane die. He even stands there and waits to make sure she is dead before leaving the apartment. Walter the psychopath has just reasoned, correctly, that with Jane out of the picture, he can resume control of Jesse and continue down the road that will lead him to his wealth and notoriety. Jane’s death helps to solve Walter’s resonance problem. Breaking Bad The Television Show has just stated the first premise in the argument for Artistic solitude.

The radius of an Artist’s resonance is inversely proportional to the number of people the Artist is willing to care for MORE THAN herself.

This is not yet new ground. Western Civilization has been advancing some form of this argument since the Renaissance. And, if Breaking Bad had stopped at this restatement of old ideas, I’m quite sure that I wouldn’t have finished watching it, and it wouldn’t be the cultural phenomenon that it is. What is new are the following additional premises [in no particular order]:


The Artist prefers solitude.

People are Artists, but Artists aren’t people.

Resonance ONLY blooms for universes of One.

Ideas are more important than people.

I will save the individual discussion of each of these premises for ensuing articles. I will also tie their appearance in the show to specific episodes. Penultimately, I will shape them into a workable argument that has “Artists forsake the world” as its conclusion. Lastly, I will excoriate this argument with all my intellectual might. A world in which Art blooms in dead soil is no world I want to live in.

Standing at the end of History’s longest preamble, and just stepping onto the road that leads to our actual destination, I can’t help but stand back in appreciation of what this MERE television show accomplished. An ancillary realization that I have had is that Artistic Intentions do not always correlate with Artistic Results. I know those responsible for Breaking Bad did not intend to make the aesthetic statement they ended up making. By accident, they forged a new myth. Although everything I have written in these first six articles is worth pursuing to completion, I’m not sure that the ancillary realization I have had is not more important. In obfuscated terminology:


No one becomes Shakespeare by trying to be Shakespeare.


2 responses to “Breaking Bad 7

  1. Hey Joel, this is another incredible series, with this article taking it to the next level. Once again you are presenting ideas I think I felt but could never articulate properly until you put the words to them.

    I started writing at age 23 without an artistic bone in my body or any previous conscious inclination towards writing. While I came to screenwriting by a weird quirk of chance, I decided very quickly that I was going to take it seriously, devote-my-life-to-it kind of seriously. Being a no-talent hack, I had to adjust my life in a lot of ways in order to get where I wanted to get with the craft. One thing that I did, consciously, as a sort of cost of doing business move…was I torched my social life.

    It weirdly seemed like the right thing to do at the time, and on some level I still think it was. I’m not a recluse of any kind and I’m a friendly guy in person, so it was a sacrifice for sure…but if you asked me if I would do it all again I would probably say yes, because I think it helped. I’m 34 now and obviously on an interpersonal level, not where I want to be. But the work…that’s in a good place.

    I’m really interested to see where this series goes, specifically your final argument. I feel like there’s a counter argument brewing, which I might put at the end of your list above, a positive spin which keeps the whole human comedy perpetuating and progressing, which is that ultimately —

    Art isn’t for the artists.

  2. That’s a great last sentence and certainly true. It will take some effort to prove it without becoming teleological. As a Neo-Kantian, I respect the prohibition against “oughts” while also knowing that restating the categorical imperative wouldn’t be saying anything new either.

    So yes, it is true Art isn’t for the Artists. We will try and show this without looking for a contradiction in the will or the understanding. Although those ideas will form the spring that launches the discussion.

    Thank you for the thoughtful response.

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