From what I have read or heard from every single media outlet in existence over the past few weeks, I gather that there is a television program called Breaking Bad that is concluding this weekend. I watched the first two seasons, but couldn’t really get into it. No, this isn’t one of those “that thing that you like actually sucks” blog posts where I just smugly laugh at all of you plebeians for having tastes that are less refined than mine. I mean that I just don’t have the same response to the show that its creators seem to intend. Walter White is a piece of shit. He’s not an antihero; he’s a villain. We’ve been over this before. But even though many fans acknowledge this, they will then talk about the show’s moral ambiguity. If the protagonist is an unambiguously terrible person, then doesn’t that create a black hole at the center? It would be one thing if he were conflicted, yet somehow sympathetic, but he isn’t. He’s just…awful, and I keep wondering why everyone hates Skylar so much when all she is doing is pushing back against his terrible-ness.
Before I go any further, I should admit that I have seen only the first two seasons. Doubtless there are those who will tell me that I have to watch the remaining three in order to get it. To those I say: piss off. If two seasons is not long enough to get an adequate feel for the show, its universe, and its general philosophy, something is wrong with the show. And this show seems intent on glorifying a man even as it chides us for rooting for him. Walter White is given lots of legitimately badass moments (“This is not meth”, to name one), but as it became increasingly clear how selfish his motives were, I found myself having a harder and harder time feeling engaged by that. On the contrary, I pulled away. This comparison is admittedly extreme, but have you ever seen Triumph of the Will? It’s a Nazi propaganda film–arguably the best propaganda film ever made. Watching it, it’s easy to see how people could be seduced by fascism and its glorious (and misleading) vision. The creative team behind Breaking Bad have selected as their main character a man who is soulless and evil, yet film him using all sorts of dramatic camera angles and pounding music that make him look like an avenging angel. If you find this stirring, it tells me things about you that I don’t want to know.
There is a certain point at which I have to stop accepting “That’s the point: you’re not supposed to find Walter White sympathetic” as an excuse for a show’s flaws. I don’t think Breaking Bad is going to age very well. It’s seductive, just like Walter White. He’s a great manipulator and a forceful personality. The show, likewise, is tense and brilliantly acted. But I have the same problem with it that I have with Daniel Day-Lewis (not quite fair, actually–I love Daniel Day-Lewis. I just find him tiring on occasion): it mistakes “intense” for “good”. Time and time again, my friends post on Facebook about how they can barely even bring themselves to watch the show. Is that supposed to be a good thing? I have enjoyed my fair share of grim and depressing movies (Requiem for a Dream, Come and See, I could go on), but at its core, the purpose of art is still to entertain. Breaking Bad, for all of its attempts to explore the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, has failed to come to terms with its own heart of darkness. I wish the show had centered around Pinkman instead. He is actually interesting and conflicted. Telling Breaking Bad from the perspective of Walter White makes about as much sense as telling Sherlock Holmes from the perspective of Moriarty. It just doesn’t work.
Antiheroes are something of a thing these days. Male antiheroes, to be exact. Female antiheroes are…rare. Besides Beatrix Kiddo, I’m having trouble coming up with any in contemporary pop culture. No doubt there is a long, scholarly essay to be written about that, but since I am neither a TV junkie nor a women’s studies major, I shall have to decline. Instead, I’ll draw my focus to this article, which is a truly ghastly attempt to refute all of the accusations of misogyny that have been leveled at Robin Thicke for his rape-a-licious, chart-topping single “Blurred Lines”. Essentially, the author proves everything she claims to refute. By criticizing a parody of “Blurred Lines” for objectifying men but countering that some women are fine with being objectified, she proves that she has absolutely no fucking idea what she is talking about. The point of the parody (which I’ve embedded below) isn’t that it’s totally okay to objectify men but not women (because that would be a double standard), but that most people are okay with one, but not the other. I’ll leave it to you to sort out which one is which.
I don’t have the space to refute every stupid, dumbfuck thing the braindead imbecile I’ve linked to above makes in that article. I literally groaned out loud while I was reading it. If you seriously think Thicke is being selfless by “liberating” the woman (with his penis), I don’t know what to say to you. You’re beyond my help, and deserve to get raped. (No, you don’t. No one deserves that. But I very much doubt that many rape victims would agree with you.) But to criticize people for comparing the lyrics of the song to the things that rapists say to their victims by saying that rape is a serious issue, and we shouldn’t go talking that way about a pop song is the stupidest, most illogical thing I’ve heard in weeks. Rapists rationalize their actions by saying that they’re not the kind of person who rapes people. But if you rape somebody, then you are the sort of person who rapes people. If Robin Thicke writes a song that contains rape-y lyrics in which he couches up his own lust and desire for control as some selfless desire to “help” the woman in question, then he is propagating rape culture. I hate to break it to you, but rapists are all around us, and until you face up to the potential for evil that exists within you, you will never keep it in check.
It’s not a double standard to claim that all of this good girl/bad girl nonsense in the song is just Madonna-whore bullshit. It’s been my experience that most “bad boys” are just douchebags with no respect for authority. I don’t like them anymore than I like the idea that within every good girl is a bad girl waiting to get out. I’m pretty straight-edged. I went out for Japanese recently and decided to give sake a try. It was the first time I had had a drink that wasn’t in a social setting in my entire life. Few things drive me nuts more than the notion that I’m just repressing my inner party animal. No, I really don’t like drugs or getting shit-faced and waking up naked in a ditch with no idea what you did the night before. I’m not judging; it’s just not my thing.
I’ll conclude this overlong blog post with an anecdote. I encountered my arch-nemesis a few years ago, a man who took all of my best qualities and twisted them into a force for evil. One of the more obnoxious things he told me was that I should not feel uncomfortable when people ask me questions like “When did you first know you were gay?”, apropos of nothing. I can’t control my feelings, dude, and I’m certainly not going to open up about the most intimate details of my life just because somebody asked me to. If spilling the beans about something like that is what is required to win the fight for gay equality, then the fight isn’t worth winning. If I did talk about my private life in spaces where I preferred not to, I’d be giving the homophobes exactly what they wanted. If you think they’re telling the truth when they say that they find gay sex repulsive and don’t want to hear about it ever, you should ask why they spend all their time making it into a political issue. Go on, think it over. And when you figure it out, don’t call me. I have other things to do.