Breaking Bad: A Case study on the Creation of a Criminal

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The much anticipated, fifth and final season of the Emmy Award-winning series, Breaking Bad, launched last week. As fans eagerly watch the twisted plot continue to unfold, many of the underlying themes become apparent. Is this thematic drama a farfetched plot of Hollywood, or a sharp look into something dark that lives in all of us?

From the beginning of the show we see a conservative, melancholic high school chemistry teacher transform into cold-blooded, meth-cooking megalomaniac. In season one, we saw the high school teacher, Walter White, begin cooking crystal meth to raise enough money to treat his recently diagnosed cancer. Slowly this means to an end developed into a hunger for power. Walt lied, stole and killed to reach to top of his empire.

Skyler White, Walt’s wife and mother to their newborn, is appalled by Walt’s actions in the drug business and tries repetitively to kick Walt out of their home. But she herself as an accountant helped Ted, her boss she was sleeping with, “cook the books” to cover up tax fraud from the IRS.

Possibly the highest ranking members on the moral scale would be the Schraders. Hank Schrader is a hardworking DEA agent and family man. But his wife, Marie, although loving and caring, is a kleptomaniac. From stealing shoes, jewelry, and spoons, Marie has an addiction to theft that she cannot seem to break.

A repeating theme in this show seems to be that everyone has internal vices they struggle with. And any person can be presented with an opportunity to do something bad. Every person will have an internal cost/benefit debate about the scenario they are faced with. And at what point do they decide that it is worth breaking bad?

After all, the criminal lives in all of us.

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