It's Okay to Not Watch "Breaking Bad."

Walter White, running with no pants on away from an RV in the Breaking Bad pilot

Breaking Bad: Does anything bad happen after this part? 

I'm just not going to make it past episode three of Breaking Bad. You can't talk me into it, because even though it's the most-discussed TV show in America right now, I don't want to watch it. I'm a proud member of the Breaking Bad dropout club and I'm staying that way.

Here's why: It's an extremely violent show. I don't do well with violence on screen. After scraping through three extremely stressful episodes—my heart racing, my body sweating—I decided this violence has no place in my life. As nice as it sounds, I think it's just not worth having horrific images (like, say, an acid-soaked dead body splattering all over a hallway) lasered into my brain forever just so I can find out what happens to a fictional chemistry teacher.

I found some validation for dropping out in an interview with drug policy journalist Jonah Engle, who has written extensively about meth and spent time with former meth producers and addicts. In an interview on Fresh Air this week, Engle was asked whether he watches Breaking Bad. Engle said he's started the show, but (like me) stopped watching after the third episode. 

"I've spent time in jails with meth cooks who've lost everything, I've spoken to families who've seen their loved ones locked up. I've seen meth labs out in the open. It was more horrifying and depressing to watch this TV show than to see it in real life," says Engle. What makes the show worse than real life, explains Engle, is that it is unrelenting in its horror. There is no hope for Breaking Bad's characters as we're all dragged down Walter White's abusive and amoral spiral

Violence is a very useful element in storytelling; horror forces viewers to recognize what they fear. Shows like Breaking Bad push us to explore what we find disgusting and to understand what we consider corrupt.  But to me, it feels like there's an increasing expectation to be nonchalant about extreme violence if you want to participate in pop culture—like Engle and I are the odd ones out for not being able to shrug off murder when we flip off the TV.

When I watch Breaking Bad or any film involving scenes of torture or graphic abuse, I'm ruined. The onscreen violence dredges up the fact I suppress in order to get through the day: that I am vulnerable. While it's fine, I think, for shows like Breaking Bad to make us consider real-world violence, we shouldn't expect everyone to be up for taking on that task as entertainment. 

Sometimes, when it's worth it, I'll put myself through the wringer to consume some bloody but essential media. In the past year, I've gotten through Cabin the Woods (with the lights on), Django Unchained (despite tears), and The Wire (with some significant pausing and muting).  But I'm not up for wearing myself thin to follow the decline of a male anti-hero chemistry teacher and a bunch of no-good guys over the course of six seasons. I've got enough villains to worry about in real life. 

Our Fall TV podcast talks more about Breaking Bad and "anti-hero fatigue," as well as gender roles in the show. Listen here


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Comments

60 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I'm right there with you,

although you've put yourself through more than I've been able to. The most disturbing thing I've watched this year is the movie Serenity, albeit a few years later than most. My physiological responses to entertainment-induced terror are too great, I'm just not willing to pay that price to be "in the know" as to what others are watching.

Firefly's rare horror

I have to say, that movie contains some remarkably violent and frightening scenes, certainly the most so that I've ever seen Whedon make. It's the most frightening part of the series. Whedon's monsters tend to be too human, so it's harder to have emotional distance. The Reavers pushed the common lines of fright, by being just a little too plausible. Their on screen time simply had to be very rare within the series, and limited in duration even when they were used, because they were exhaustingly frightening. His usual approach to countering fright (with remarkably beautiful heroine fight scenes, and a team pulling together, and flat out heroism) wasn't quite enough to clear the mind. I loved the movie anyway, but it was partially because they took that seriously.

I watch action movies, and a little horror, and I'm having a hard time finding a peer. The last time I was that bothered by a frightening character, it was when I walked out of clockwork orange. Movies that go for violence or horror the whole time usually allow the mind to abstract the violence in some way. Tarantino's work is very recognizably stylized, and you can take a moment to stop and observe the artistic choices mid fight scene. Resident Evil zombies had nothing to offer but the simple, predictable danger of violence and infection. Classic zombies can be very frightening, but they're also stupid, slow, and implausible. War movies tend to follow a beaten path of propaganda that makes it all much more palatable.

I know friends who have said

I know friends who have said and felt similar things. I have continued watching it despite the violence because I don't believe it's done just for 'shock value' or simply for the sake of being violent, but I think it's extremely well crafted and the characters have depth, even though it does make my blood boil or feel tense at times. But I can understand it not being for everyone and not wanting to get into it just for the sake of entertainment. I may not feel that way about Breaking Bad, but I can relate when it comes to other TV shows or movies I've watched in the past that were too violent for me to handle or weren't worth watching because it just felt too shocking or vulgar as a viewer.

tv shows

I would love to see what you think of Sons of Anarchy....all kinds of craziness is that show...

I can't watch SoA anymore.

I can't watch SoA anymore. Weirdly, the "traditional" violence (murder, beat-downs, etc.) doesn't bother me that much. It does bother me, but I just play with my phone and tune out the show while it's happening.

It's the other violence -- the torture and the rapes. There was one episode at the beginning of this season that seemed (to me) like it was just nonstop rape. A rape scene would start, I'd flee the room, and when I came back it would be a completely different rape scene. It was horrifying and grotesque.

I can't watch SoA anymore. I've just completely given up. I'll go read Hamlet instead (which SoA is allegedly inspired by).

Curious

To be perfectly honest, I don't think anyone else really cares whether or not you watch Breaking Bad.
I am curious as to why you feel like you "have" to watch certain things that you don't enjoy. Where does that come from?

I'm a huge Breaking Bad

I'm a huge Breaking Bad talker-upper. Always recommending it to people. I love the show and think it's great.

There are a LOT of people like me. It has got to be annoying to be talking about TV and keep hearing people say "oh you HAVE to watch this show!!" and trying it out and not being ok with the level of violence (as is the case with Breaking Bad) or the amount of sexism or whatever.

You have to be able to excuse a lot of shittyness in order to enjoy a lot of different kinds of entertainment, and not everyone can or wants to do that. There tends to be an elitism in spheres of fandom, no matter the medium. "Oh you don't like the Godfather? You clearly don't get cinema" That kind of thing. This happens with Breaking Bad and I'm sure it's annoying to hear from people.

So the feeling of NEEDING to watch something comes from that kind of Great Canon that people always have and talk about. It's ok to not like things that are considered "GREAT" for whatever reason, and that doesn't mean that their opinion is invalid.

I do understand what you're

I do understand what you're saying. There are a lot of people who are very passionate about their shows and try to convince everyone else to watch them too. But why not just ignore people like that? If you're not interested in a show or you don't like it, you can just not watch it. I dunno. It's just interesting to me that the author felt the need to write this in order to validate her choice of not watching breaking bad. Do her friends pester her about it that much?

I got the sense from her post that she's making herself watch these shows/movies in order to not feel left out.

Why does she have to be quiet

Why does she have to be quiet when everyone is talking about it just because she disagrees? A dissenting voice amongst the crowd is not a bad thing. I don't understand why you're choosing to try to shut someone down. By your own statement, shouldn't you just ignore it?

Plus, you know, this is a feminist response to pop culture blog. One of the feminist responses is that this particular pop culture show is not appealing to everyone. Why shouldn't that response also be written about.

I didn't say she couldn't

I didn't say she couldn't write about her reaction to breaking bad. And I definitely didn't tell her to be quiet. I literally said "I don't think anyone really cares whether or not you watch Breaking Bad." It's just what I think.

I care because...

I WAS going to watch it because I see everyone really digging it in social media circles... and usually that is a sure sign of a great show. I now know though based on this (with catchy title that drew me in) that I would fall into category of people that could not tolerate the violence. I am glad the author wrote this... my eyes would not be able to un-see after I watched and I have been saved that problem... and the increased anxiety and bad dreams that may have followed. Thank you author for sharing viewpoint.

When the whole world is

When the whole world is making inside jokes, memes, etc about a show you don't watch, you start to feel a bit left out/annoyed.

Says the person who's never seen a majority of Blockbuster movies you'd have to be living under a rock not to have seen.

What Alex said

nobody cares what you watch. shut up, Sarah Mirk. Also, alex, the reason why she feels she "has" to watch things is because she's white, and stupid.

Thank you, Sarah, for this

Thank you, Sarah, for this post. I feel the same way and it is really nice to hear your point of view. It helps me deal with my own conflicting emotions on this topic! I think it's tremendously important that we continue a dialogue as a society about this issue... especially since people (see above) have such a strong response. It completely reinforces the underlying pressure to be apathetic. They obviously don't get it :(

People seem to care too a lot

People seem to care too a lot when i tell them I'm not interested in it. they go on for half an hour about how great it is, how well made, how engaging. I've never even seen it so it's not like I'm arguing with them. But they are literally pressuring me to watch the show, not just discussing it around me.

To be perfectly honest, I

To be perfectly honest, I don't think the writer really cares about your response. Maybe you should try speaking for yourself dumbass. After spending a night watching 2 seasons of breaking bad and now laying in my bed wondering what life is, feeling completely emotionless because of what I just watched, it is VERY comforting to read this article and know I'm not alone in feeling this way. SO yeah, just shut up.

Oops this was supposed to be

Oops this was supposed to be in response to someone else's comment

Kick Em

A friend and I have a code phrase we use when talking about shows and books. Kick Em basically means that the violence/horror/abuse/lack of agency dominates the story and there's no escaping it. Neither of us care to spend time on a Kick Em plot line - the dreariness can get unrelenting. We also find it rather unrealistic, as a previous commenter noted.

I'm glad you posted this

I also am not a Breaking Bad fan. I started when it first came out and I think I made it through the first season or two, but then I just couldn't anymore. With everyone in my corner of the world talking about it, it's been kind of frustrating. Even the article on the Bitch Blog earlier this week about the fan-hate of Skylar has been weighing on my mind. I mean, there is just so much to unpack I don't know where to start. So thanks for making me feel less like an alien.

This struck me as odd. As if

This struck me as odd. As if we needed a public service announcement telling us we don't have to consume mainstream media. This post said very little about violence in the media and nothing about feminism. I fear Bitch is losing it's touch.

I have issues with certain

I have issues with certain posts and articles too, and Bitch's ongoing love affair with the word "douchebag" make me wonder if this magazine is still for me. But... really, you don't expect every single blog post to touch on every single aspect of feminism and culture, do you?

douchebag is a pretty good

douchebag is a pretty good word for what bitch use it to refer to.

douches are unnecessary at BEST but downright DANGEROUS at worst. asshole, dick, jerk, mofo, dumbass, etc. no insult captures the specific quality that douche or douchebag do.

i know that people seem to think it's an insult just because it has -something- to do with women or vaginas, but considering how it is used (never to mean effeminate or weak, like other vagina-related insults) i don't think that's true.

i can't believe douches are still being sold and advertised. it's disturbing.

Losing Touch

I'm kind of new to reading Bitch, so I can't say whether Bitch is losing "it is" touch, but it's probably good to keep in mind that people of all culture-experience-levels visit the site. I mean to say that some of us are in our 40's, and know we don't need to keep up with the Joneses media-wise, and some of us are 12 or 14, and perhaps this is one of the first times this kind of perspective has been experienced. Balance is good.

Torture is the story

Torture is the story deal-breaker for me personally, and it's a strangely common plot device in movies and television.

Me too. I walked out of Pan's

Me too. I walked out of Pan's Labyrinth, despite being really into the story, because I couldn't stomach what I saw was about to happen.

I dated an ex-meth addict who

I dated an ex-meth addict who still used pot, alcohol, and Rx drugs to get high. I watched two episodes of Breaking Bad and it felt FAR too much like dating my ex all over again. Too similar to real life. A real life I left behind and have no desire to revisit.

I agree COMPLETELY!

OMG....I feel like you read my mind. I also only watched the first 3 episodes. The decaying body was all for me. I really can not handle to watch people suffer. Although I didn't need to be told that it was ok not to watch it, I do feel better that I am not the only person who feels this way.

Thank you for writing this.

I just had someone I don't

I just had someone I don't even know tell me that I am an "idiot who doesn't appreciate production quality and shouldn't own a TV" because I don't enjoy the glorification of meth use and dishonesty. The man sucks his whole family down with him. While I do agree that it is well written and acted, I have no place for it in my life.

The last thing Breaking Bad

The last thing Breaking Bad does is glorify meth use. Seriously. The "Meth" has almost nothing to do with the actual story. Bad mouth it & hate it but know what you're talking about beforehand.

Though I'm a Breaking Bad fan

Though I'm a Breaking Bad fan and I acknowledge that it's still a violent show overall, I'll also say that the third episode was probably the most graphic and disturbing of the entire series. I barely thought I could continue watching future episodes, but fortunately that was one of the worst. What makes the show worthwhile for me is the way it shows how good and evil can exist in the same person - but I am also a big fan of the concept of the anti-hero. I get that not everyone likes that so I don't push when friends say they're not interested in the show.

I would never say that anyone should watch a show that they feel is too violent or otherwise disturbing and I totally respect people's boundaries with that. As a rape survivor, I find it very difficult to watch anything that has graphic rape scenes and I will go out of my way to avoid such things when I know they're present.

I'm down with this article but...

Okay so I watched the first two seasons of BB in order to get on board, but I was utterly turned off for a couple reasons:

1) despite its aesthetic of realism, the show is super cartoon-y
2) its treatment of women is deplorable.
3) it purports to be a character study but is really a plot heavy machine of melodrama

I could expand on these points, but what's the point? I'm in the minority and nobody is going to take me seriously.

That being said, I wished that this article had expanded upon the idea of a cultural obligation to labour at unpleasant things for the benefit of relevancy and awareness in an increasingly crowded cultural marketplace. There's a pressure to be familiar with the universally beloved objects ("what? you haven't seen it? what's wrong with you?") and that's a conversation worth having, along side the sheer relentlessness of bleak violence. Or, to put some nuance on to it, how the bleak violence is in service to the spectator's ego ideal being represented by Walter White.

Say what you will about Walter White, but you have to admit there's an element of fantasy to the character ("I wish I was as ruthless/smart/driven as he is") and that's an interesting conversation to have as well. It's weird that the fantasy of Walter White also comes with cartoonish violence.

My husband actually wrote a

My husband actually wrote a really great piece on his blog about why he also refuses to watch the show and feels that it glorifies a lot more than plain physical violence, but will never be able to capture the truth of real meth "culture" (if you can call it that). He puts it a lot more concisely then I ever could:
http://thepartylinelevel.tumblr.com/post/58016227276/so-meth-and-tweaker...

I don't think BB strives to

I don't think BB strives to "capture the truth of real meth culture". It just asks you to imagine an unlikely "what if". It also exposes the darkness lurking below the surface of an otherwise "normal", white, middle-class, American life through the symbolic use of illegal drug dealing. I would even go so far as to say that BB argues that the trappings and repression required to live that "normal" life make for a fundamentally dark existence.

In the grand scheme of modern

In the grand scheme of modern network / cable dramas, this show isn't violent at all. There is really only one really really squicky scene in this show that I've had to look away from. Of course you don't have to watch Breaking Bad if you don't want to, but the idea that it's "too violent" is strange. Intense? Yes. Scary as shit? Yes. Stress-inducing? Definitely. Ans the fact that you'd sit through Django Unchained and not Breaking Bad is even more bizarre. Television and movies aren't reality, by the way. That's kind of the entire point.

About That

Yeah, hi. I, too, am a BB fan. I was quite late to the game (no cable, no netflix, but a neighbor with both), but I did finally join in the viewing experience because a lot of people i know and respect (from professors to filmmakers and so on) were raving about how good it was. And to digress a bit, just to be clear, I also don't agree entirely (in response to some comments above) that the desire to watch what the homies are watching is purely peer-pressure driven. There is something about having relationships with people who know you well. As opposed to or alongside of all the "YOU HAVENT SEEN BB?!", there is also the "I think YOU would really like it (friend who i know well and trust)." Anyway, my point is to respond to the comment here that BB isnt "that violent". Upon reading this article and the other on this magazine concerning Skyler's character, I had quite the opposite reaction: "OMG, I'm so fucked up and drenched in our sick culture that I, the critical cultural and media studies black feminist, anti-gun violence, PhD candidate conducting research on such topics, did not even stop to realize that this is yet ANOTHER example of the shit i am constantly condemning through academic research and here i am, spending my oh-so-infrequent free time away from writing to indulge it!" Once i passed that shame stage, i thought about what I DO respect about the show. And it was indeed mentioned by a previous comment: the film production value is solid! Soooo solid! I have mad respect for that! Yet, the devil is indeed in the details.

It would be misguided to claim that this show isnt "that violent" in comparison to... I DGAF what. The more poignant point, for me, is that claims that the show isnt "that violent", or it isnt "as sexist as...", or that "at least it isnt as racist as when..." only prove the point of my gestalt shift. As i read your the articles concerning BB on bitchmedia, i was forced to remember (!) that we can be paying all the attention we want to solving the illnesses of our culture, but it is so easy to fall short on pushing that goal forward when the kool-aid is so good and fall right back down that rabbit hole of denial. And we -- I (like to think we all)-- know better. Yes, Iam a BB fan, and I am sad to say I totally blanked and drank the BB kool-aid, too. I totally could have helped it. Its easy to want to blame the author of this article or to blame those who won't condone violence even in their entertainment as being judgemental, but it's much more difficult to reflect on ourselves personally and say "woah. is this ME breaking bad right now?!" All it takes is "its not THAAAAT violent.." Like Skyler once said to Walt about killing Jesse, "What's one more?" Right? I have come this far. 10% of my friends growing up have been murdered by senseless gun-violence; many of the women in my family are victims of domestic abuse; people all over the world are killing each other in human trafficking, drug trades, civil and international wars... What's ONE MORE tv show with sexism racism violence and drug trafficking? Its no surprise that we are numbed to it. Its not that its shows like breaking bad that are the root cause of these social issues, but rather that it helps us become immune to horrific activity. The deep philosophical question we want to answer is, if this show reflects the desires we have as a society (that such sexist violent and racist things can be called "entertaining"), is it worth watching? And the next question after that is "At what cost?" I appreciate the article. It helped me realize how i am my very own anti-hero, and like the characters on TV (based on "human beings" if you can believe it), I, too, am flawed. The only difference is this horrible life isnt a fantasy tv show that ends after 5 seasons..... Thanks for the article, and i am glad to see such thoughtful discussion around it. Oh, and to that chick who said bitchmedia was losing her touch i say i strongly disagree: this is what feminism is, right here. Kudos bitchmedia on a thought well exposed. (PS It goes without saying that all the shit i just said also goes dor Django Unchained, but i digress; thats another comment stream.)

THANK YOU

Living in a media- and conformity-driven culture, our worth as human beings is measured by the media and culture we consume. New religious values are being dictated by the internet fanboy cult of popular-culture-as-identity. Acceptance motivates conformity, and the ubiquitous presence of fascist "shoulds" like "you 'should' watch Breaking Bad" permits jackbooted thugs to masquerade as loser fanboys. But it is these fanboys/thugs/losers who move the bar of our cultural quality of life closer to the ground. All these shows in the "golden age of TV" (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Orange Is The New Black, Walking Dead etc.) are critically praised and lauded as cultural high points, but speaking for myself, this is not the point. The point is how much control of our lives and our self-worth we have seceded to fanboys and critics. If I don't want to watch rape or torture on my screen, I won't, no matter how critically praised it is. No fanboy of "Breaking Bad" will convince me it is important like the moon landing, watching the Twin Tower bombings live, or anything like that. Fanboys, critics, bloggers and columnists have usurped the power to tell us what is relevant to us as human beings. It is time we took it back. If I never see an episode of Breaking Bad, I have not missed anything, and that is something fans of the show will have to accept.

I'm a little staggered at the

I'm a little staggered at the idea that you feel a need to watch 'essential media' even though it's putting you through the wringer. You don't need to watch 'The Cabin in the Woods' or 'Django Unchained' or 'The Wire' or 'Breaking Bad' or any other specific title to be fully participating in contemporary culture.

I'm supposedly some sort of media-savvy person and I do watch a lot of movies and television series'. But I haven't seen a Walt Disney animated feature since the early '90s, and I didn't see 'Titanic' until ten years after its original release, I watched the racist piece of crap that is 'Avatar' only under protest, I thought that 'Slumdog Millionaire' was horrifying, and didn't think that 'Lost' was all that interesting nor that its terrible fan-infuriating ending was any sort of surprise at all, and I try to skip the entire 'Romantic Comedy' genre (and fail, because they slip that line in everywhere, but if it calls it a rom-com on the box I'm pretty sure it'll be a sexist piece of rubbish that treats the idea of women's lives being centered on sexual relationships with men as normal and amusing, which is not a funny idea. It's gross. Like how 'Slumdog Millionaire' wanted me to laugh at someone getting completely covered in human shit instead of screaming about cholera is about the furthest thing in the world from a joke.

Anyway. Yeah. I like 'Breaking Bad' and watch it. It's okay not to watch it. Really, I'll go further and say that it's not really very okay to watch it if you don't like it.

^

Oh, nonsense.

What bit?

What bit?

"What's wrong with you?"

"You don't watch X thing? What's wrong with you?" I hear that phrase thrown around a lot from folks who feel ostracized for not watching popular shows. But has anyone ever actually said "What's wrong with you?" I've never heard it and my guess is no one else really has either. It would be quite an over-the-top vicious thing for a person to say in response to hearing that their friend merely chose not to watch a TV show.

I think that sometimes when you feel left out of a cultural trend you get annoyed and you start to, on some level, view the people who are into that trend as the enemy. So when you talk about them you exaggerate how bad they are -- it's not just that they are a little obnoxious about their favorite show, it's that they are literally attacking who you are as a person. This is simply silly.

No one thinks there is anything wrong with you for not watching a TV show. Some people get excited about shows they think are really good, like Breaking Bad, and they want to share their passion with you so they can talk about it with you. They like you. They want to share something with you that they are really into. They aren't attacking you. And they also aren't wrong for liking the shows they like.

Basically what I'm saying is everyone just calm down.

I'm a little staggered at the

I'm a little staggered at the idea that you feel a need to watch 'essential media' even though it's putting you through the wringer. You don't need to watch 'The Cabin in the Woods' or 'Django Unchained' or 'The Wire' or 'Breaking Bad' or any other specific title to be fully participating in contemporary culture.

I'm supposedly some sort of media-savvy person and I do watch a lot of movies and television series'. But I haven't seen a Walt Disney animated feature since the early '90s, and I didn't see 'Titanic' until ten years after its original release, I watched the racist piece of crap that is 'Avatar' only under protest, I thought that 'Slumdog Millionaire' was horrifying, and didn't think that 'Lost' was all that interesting nor that its terrible fan-infuriating ending was any sort of surprise at all, and I try to skip the entire 'Romantic Comedy' genre (and fail, because they slip that line in everywhere, but if it calls it a rom-com on the box I'm pretty sure it'll be a sexist piece of rubbish that treats the idea of women's lives being centered on sexual relationships with men as normal and amusing, which is not a funny idea. It's gross. Like how 'Slumdog Millionaire' wanted me to laugh at someone getting completely covered in human shit instead of screaming about how cholera is about the furthest thing in the world from a joke.)

Anyway. Yeah. I like 'Breaking Bad' and watch it. It's okay not to watch it. Really, I'll go further and say that it's not really very okay to watch it if you don't like it.

Lets flip that script: what

Lets flip that script: what would you say if i, who likes the article, said "Dont read the article if you dont like what she sayin." See how that doesnt make much sense?

Flip

Actually, that makes perfect sense to me. I don't watch romantic comedies because I don't like what I think they're saying and I don't want to listen to that bullshit. I have zero problem with not giving air-time in my head to that message.

That's half-relevant anyway.

It's closer to the target of the article to say, "Don't read the article if you don't like how she's saying what she's saying." The author hasn't complained about what 'Breaking Bad' says. She hasn't even said what she thinks it says. She says that on-screen violence is stressful to her.

She's being much more open about violent media than I am about 'rom-coms'. I don't want to hear what rom-coms have to say about gender, so I don't watch them. Sarah Mirk is not saying she doesn't want to hear what 'Breaking Bad' has to say about the American health care system, or drug culture, or how fear can make some people turn into scary evil manipulative monsters, or family dynamics, or loyalty and friendship, or any of quite a range of interesting things that 'Breaking Bad' might be saying. She just doesn't want to watch on-screen violence.

And so she shouldn't. Really, if the presentation is grueling to her, the interesting and worthwhile stuff embedded in the story are just going to be hard to untangle from her feelings disgust/anxiety/etc. There are other ways to explore the same themes. Same with the other 'essential media' she's mentioned. There's no shortage of media and the fact that it's popular or even timely doesn't mean that it's the only thing around addressing much the same points. One or ten of those somethings else are probably going to get a lot closer to the 'every reader her book' / 'this speaks to my condition' ideal. I propose that it's better to look for those somethings than slog through something that makes you miserable.

About That...

Yeah, hi. I, too, am a BB fan. I was quite late to the game (no cable, no netflix, but a neighbor with both), but I did finally join in the viewing experience because a lot of people i know and respect (from professors to filmmakers and so on) were raving about how good it was. And to digress a bit, just to be clear, I also don't agree entirely (in response to some comments above) that the desire to watch what the homies are watching is purely peer-pressure driven. There is something about having relationships with people who know you well. As opposed to or alongside of all the "YOU HAVENT SEEN BB?!", there is also the "I think YOU would really like it (friend who i know well and trust)." Anyway, my point is to respond to the comment here that BB isnt "that violent". Upon reading this article and the other on this magazine concerning Skyler's character, I had quite the opposite reaction: "OMG, I'm so fucked up and drenched in our sick culture that I, the critical cultural and media studies black feminist, anti-gun violence, PhD candidate conducting research on such topics, did not even stop to realize that this is yet ANOTHER example of the shit i am constantly condemning through academic research and here i am, spending my oh-so-infrequent free time away from writing to indulge it!" Once i passed that shame stage, i thought about what I DO respect about the show. And it was indeed mentioned by a previous comment: the film production value is solid! Soooo solid! I have mad respect for that! Yet, the devil is indeed in the details.

It would be misguided to claim that this show isnt "that violent" in comparison to... I DGAF what. The more poignant point, for me, is that claims that the show isnt "that violent", or it isnt "as sexist as...", or that "at least it isnt as racist as when..." only prove the point of my gestalt shift. As i read your the articles concerning BB on bitchmedia, i was forced to remember (!) that we can be paying all the attention we want to solving the illnesses of our culture, but it is so easy to fall short on pushing that goal forward when the kool-aid is so good and fall right back down that rabbit hole of denial. And we -- I (like to think we all)-- know better. Yes, Iam a BB fan, and I am sad to say I totally blanked and drank the BB kool-aid, too. I totally could have helped it. Its easy to want to blame the author of this article or to blame those who won't condone violence even in their entertainment as being judgemental, but it's much more difficult to reflect on ourselves personally and say "woah. is this ME breaking bad right now?!" All it takes is "its not THAAAAT violent.." Like Skyler once said to Walt about killing Jesse, "What's one more?" Right? I have come this far. 10% of my friends growing up have been murdered by senseless gun-violence; many of the women in my family are victims of domestic abuse; people all over the world are killing each other in human trafficking, drug trades, civil and international wars... What's ONE MORE tv show with sexism racism violence and drug trafficking? Its no surprise that we are numbed to it. Its not that its shows like breaking bad that are the root cause of these social issues, but rather that it helps us become immune to horrific activity. The deep philosophical question we want to answer is, if this show reflects the desires we have as a society (that such sexist violent and racist things can be called "entertaining"), is it worth watching? And the next question after that is "At what cost?" I appreciate the article. It helped me realize how i am my very own anti-hero, and like the characters on TV (based on "human beings" if you can believe it), I, too, am flawed. The only difference is this horrible life isnt a fantasy tv show that ends after 5 seasons..... Thanks for the article, and i am glad to see such thoughtful discussion around it. Oh, and to that chick who said bitchmedia was losing her touch i say i strongly disagree: this is what feminism is, right here. Kudos bitchmedia on a thought well exposed. (PS It goes without saying that all the shit i just said also goes dor Django Unchained, as other commentators have mentioned, but i digress; thats another comment stream.)

Violence.

Yes to this comment above! I have been watching BB from the beginning and have always liked it mostly because of the photography, but also the storyline. I am very interested how they will end an ending that has been built up for five years. Also, I live abroad now, and so American TV has taken on a different meaning for me. I always say art reflects reality. And what artist did in the past or what they do now can tell historians and also regular people something about the society they were from. I don't think art (in this case TV) needs to portray how we want society, because American socoiety IS violent and is sexist. Watching BB I can't help but think how it is really a typical American drama. America IS an extremely violent society. Look how many mass shootings you have, and also METH is a huge problem in the states. BB is indeed violent but it is a reflection of the society it comes from. People don't become violent or sexist from watching TV, these types of shows are showing us bits of reality.

Yes Yes Yes

I also watched the first three episodes (seems to be the magic number) before dropping out. For me, it wasn't just the violence (I made it through The Wire and several seasons of Sons of Anarchy) but something about the vibe and the way it was filmed just made it hopelessly depressing. Maybe I'm just not a desert person. Also, I'm in recovery, so I'm leery of purposefully exposing myself to that much drug culture, etc. even if it's not glorifying anything. Every so often, usually at the end of the year when people start making lists of their favorite television, I consider giving it another try because everyone who's taste I share seems to rave about it. I don't like the thought that I'm missing out on some great art and great conversation, but eventually I decide it's just not worth it. Can't say I'm not a little glad that it's just about over though.

Also, any way for someone to delete all the double (and triple) posts? For some reason they're really cluttering up the page on this one.

Well said

I have a pretty low tolerance for on-screen violence, it's just the way my brain is wired I suppose.

I can accept it in certain types of films and television shows provided it's not something I have to take in on a regular basis, or in the case of films, sit through 90 minutes of continual violence. Violence against women is particularly rough for me (there is only so much rape and torture I can deal with in media).

I'm a fan of "Game of Thrones", which has plenty of violence and scenes that cause psychological discomfort.

I'm a fan of Tarantino films, despite the high level of violence (I like Tarantino's sense of humor, and his very flawed "heroes", especially in "Kill Bill" and "Jackie Brown").

I do have great respect Breaking Bad. It's well written, well acted, and unrelenting in the way it forces the audience to feel.. something.. anger, horror, pathos.

However, it just got to be too much for me to invest in after the first season. Sons of Anarchy had the same effect. Maybe it's because it's too close to "real" and as the author states "I’ve got enough villains to worry about in real life. " Again, it's not that I always want my media entertainment to be happy and shiny with likeable characters who always do the "right thing" (I do enjoy "Mad Men" after all), it's just the visceral, visual violence of Breaking Bad that stays with me long after the episode is over.

Even if your logical brain can say "this is just makeup and special effects", there are just some images you can't "un-see".

Maybe you're just a wuss

Hate to put it this way, but it's true.

Consider for a moment that there might be a moral lesson to be learned, shared and passed on, and by turning a blind eye to the story you're actually opting out of a cultural phenomenon in the name of....what? Your precious feelings? You probably could have come up with a better reason of not watching than that.

Django was OK?

I can't believe you find it too hard to watch breaking bad, but you sat through Django Unchained! That had got to be one of the most violent movies I've seen. I had a hard time getting through it, and I'm pretty tolerant of violence on screen if the plot is good. That said, although I tell people they should give breaking bad a try, if they have and said its not for them, I don't bring it up again. People that are relentlessly pushy about their opinions, no matter what they are, are intolerable! I was hoping though for a little more in depth analysis of the show, but who can do that after only 3 episodes?

Bandwagon

I grew up in a religion which strongly eschewed cultural fads and highly discouraged participation in (read: prohibited from) things like dancing, elections, birthday parties, etc. Despite lingering social awkwardness (despite having left the religion when I was 10) I've always been grateful for the 'outsider' worldview my experience left me with. My friends never say "you HAVE to watch this.." but this is implied in the countless and relentless (maybe a little hyperbole) posts about, as of late, BB. My gut reaction to this is always "wow, lemmings", that's even if I also happen to like or participate in the particular phenomenon.

Good article. Screw the bandwagon, I'll walk.

You made it farther than I

Thank you for this article. Even though I watched the premiere (OK like 6/7s of it) I felt no need to continue. It was just the setup that got me. I got to the part where they were filling the tub with acid and had the guys tied up in the basement. I wasn't too keen on the idea of watching what happened next. I mean the first episode is supposed to get you hooked and I just wasn't hooked at all. Was I supposed to feel bad that the teacher guy was broke and stressed out and having to carry a son with disabilities? No. I thought he was being a coward turning to meth. I don't know what it was about the first episode but I was not drawn in by the plot and what really put me off it I think is exactly what you are talking about - the idea of graphic violence.

Don't get me wrong I love me some Cabin in the Woods and movies like that, but why watch a show about people making meth and ALL the horrible things that come with it? In HS I had friends who did that stuff and in SC I lived 2 doors down from people who were heavy druggies. I didn't know dealers or behind the scenes stuff, but I know how bad it can get when you really get hooked. There's no way I'm going to watch a Hollywood version of it. It's not even that. My old neighbourhood in SC there were knockdown fights and guns flying around. Dunno if it was meth, but damn. Yeah I don't need to watch it - in some instances I've lived way to close to the user end and it's way too fraking scary to even begin to deal with.

So brave

So brave

Breaking Bad and Violence

It's also why I stopped watching Weeds. Started off as interesting commentary, but when the season ended in a shootout in the car, I knew was done.

Too close to home!

I watched one episode of this show and vowed to not watch any more. I'm glad it put my hometown of Albuquerque on the map, but wish it could have been for a less violent show. I'm told some people are calling our state New Methico because of this show. This show emphasizes our moral decline.

Couldn't have put it better

Couldn't have put it better myself. After literally everyone I know had raved at me about BB, I decided to give it a watch, even though the description of the plot sounded pretty awful - but hey, there must have been something really great about it, or all these people wouldn't be raving about it, right?

I didn't make it as far as you - I gave up half-way through the third episode. By that point, I knew that there was no reward from this series that was going to be worth having to look at scenes this horrific and depressing. I'm no prude - I saw Natural Born Killers twice, for crying out loud, but that did at least have an interesting message about the media to convey. But I can't see any such message in BB, and I can do without watching scenes of torture, prostitution, drug abuse etc as a leisure activity. Life's too short - I'm just going to accept that whatever great rewards there are for watching BB, I'm going to miss out on them. I can live more easily with that than with the cost of watching the show.

My friend is always telling

My friend is always telling me the show gets better. I got to episode 5 before finally saying this show is NOT for me

Curious as to why all the

Curious as to why all the interest and apparent addiction to extremely violent shows and "bad" protagonists in the media lately even by so-called Christians or other religious people: Breaking Bad, Dexter, 50 Shades of Gray, etc. This comes at the same time as we've had an influx of real life violence and all sorts of addictions in society. We think it's deplorable in real life and have little compassion for violent criminals or addicts. Yet we relish these topics for entertainment and appear to think it's cool to do so and square not to. I completely understand why this article was written. I will never understand why anyone would enjoy watching violence or depravity. And I understand even less why anyone would do so and then complain that there is too much violence and addiction in society. It's also hypocritical to get off on this stuff and then lack compassion for those who struggle with it. Those who say they can separate themselves from it don't see the underlying cause and effect in society, esp among our youth. They don't see that a steady diet of this garbage does effect their psyche and relationships with others. If u say u want to get to heaven someday, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but there won't be any violence or addictions there. I find it sad, not cool that people like and are even addicted to these shows, books, etc., and that they don't see how glorifying these things perpetuates them. It's a sign of our sick and twisted times.

When I first heard about BB,

When I first heard about BB, I was told "...it's a really cool show about a science teacher who makes drugs..." by a few different people. Even though I have read that the drug thing is not really a dominant thing about the show, the fact that I've heard more than one person talk about BB and using the words 'drugs' and 'cool' in the same sentence has kept me away.

No one cares what u think

No one cares what u think it's the best show for a reason. If u get scared then u need to get out more and stop being such a meow meow

What I think..

Honestly, I like Breaking Bad. But some people aren't into to the same thing. So many people commented on this basically saying this blog or post is stupid and that the person who posted it should just shut up. Which is highly immature. If you disagree and want to say why, do it respectfully.
This shows is can be violent, some people can't handle so much violence, it doesn't mean they need to get out more and get over it.