"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad series finale tonight. Aaron Paul did a cameo as Pinkman on Saturday Night Live last night in a skit about Obamacare. He talked about Walter White's trajectory.

Ross Douthat wrote a column on it in the Sunday New York Times titled "The World According to Team Walt."
But one thing he hasn’t done, as this weekend’s series finale looms, is entirely forfeit the sympathies of his audience. As a cultural phenomenon, this is the most striking aspect of “Breaking Bad” — the persistence, after everything he’s done, of a Team Walt that still wants him to prevail.
I wonder how prevalent this phenomenon is. I wonder how many fans recognize it's just a TV show and they don't share White's values in their daily life. Douthat is a conservative who professes religious values.  But Walt's values - myself and my family (my tribe) above everyone else where the ends justify means is very much a conservative Republican outlook. See the government shutdown and hostage taking over the debt ceiling. Liberals share Rawls's vision of society where one prefers a society of true equality of opportunity because they believe in a vision where it's as if one doesn't know where one will be class-wise. Progressives favor social insurance because it benefits society as a whole and helps ensure equality of opportunity.

Walt dealing meth is analogous to corporations dealing bad consumer items like tobacco only worse. Granted he did do many things that were obviously criminal and wrong like killling people, especially innocents like Jesse's girlfriend Jane, even if she was threatening his family. He's obviously an anti-hero. The show *is* called Breaking Bad. But Douthat doesn't discuss Jesse Pinkman who did some bad things and has made many poor choices but is more sympathetic. He has a conscience.
..[Walter White] isn’t the product of a lawless environment who never knew another way. He’s a protagonist who made a conscious decision to embrace what society regards as evil, to step permanently outside our civilization’s moral norms.
Walt made many bad choices, but he was at first desperate and dying of cancer. He thought he could get in and out clean; thanks to the drug war which Douthat doesn't discuss there's ample demand fro drugs. But he was mistaken to think that the drug trade wouldn't drag him down and turn him evil, break him bad. Jesse who has more of conscience was driven crazy.
This means “Breaking Bad” implicitly challenges audiences to get down to bedrock and actually justify those norms. Why is it so wrong to kill strangers — often dangerous strangers! — so that your own family can survive and prosper? Why is it wrong to exploit people you don’t see or care about for the sake of those inside your circle? Why is Walter White’s empire-building — carried out with boldness, brilliance and guile — not an achievement to be admired?
Emphasis added. That's Douthat's Republicans who are cutting food stamps which are very small part of the budget, but will hurt people badly. That's societal rot as discussed by Doug Henwood.

I think the vast majority of viewers identify with Hank who wanted to take Walt down. Walt is a very interesting character though, because of the great writing and acting, one who became worse the longer the show went on. Nonetheless he was fun to watch. And he did care for Jesse who was outside his tribe. And Jesse was a person with a conscience whose conscience caused him to have a break down.

And why did Jesse turn to drugs? Badger? Skinny Pete? Part of it is their responsibility and choice obviously, but part of it is the choices available to them. If Jesse had better options maybe as making a living as an artist he could have avoided drugs. Maybe not but may be if society was more prosperous and there was equality of opportunity people wouldn't turn to drugs. Maybe the punitive drug war makes it worse.

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