Why Breaking Bad Matters


People don’t care if you’re stupid.


Breaking Bad matters because it has given me hours of free entertainment. Even better, it’s entertainment that’s intelligent, so I can convince myself I’m becoming smarter when I’m waist deep in shame during a Netflix binge.

Breaking Bad also matters because of the process behind the making of the show. Whenever the creator, Vince Gilligan, discussed his team’s creative process, you can tell they didn’t subscribe to the Kanye West method—throw diarrhea on the wall and be in love with whatever happens to take shape. Rather, they went through every character, every scenario, and every line with a fine-toothed comb. I imagine it took them 12 days to write the line “tread lightly.”

It reminds me of the creative process behind the Simpsons. When I was young, I remember hearing about how it took dozens of re-writes to finalize each script. It’s no wonder Breaking Bad has been dubbed the Simpsons of drama.

But ultimately, Breaking Bad matters because the fans’ moral reaction to the show is a reflection of the current American psyche.

Notably, the three most sainted characters are Jesse Pinkman, Hank Schrader, and Walter Jr.

Jesse Pinkman, however, is incapable, stupid, drug-addicted, and his emotions render him an out-of-control man-child. He would have been dead many times over if it wasn’t for the rational grace of Walt. But more importantly, Jesse means well.

Hank Schrader, however, is too narrow-minded to see the extensive consequences of his actions as a DEA agent. He doesn’t see that he is a plaything of the crime world he creates. Hank, in other words, is a mix between Javert and a domineering boyfriend who feels like a victim when his girlfriend lies to him. But more importantly, Hank means well.

And Walter Jr, however, is still operating at Kohlberg’s conventional stage of moral development. This leaves him an easy victim of projection, which of course does happen in the last episodes, when he blindly assumes Walt killed Hank. But more importantly, Walter Jr means well.

I’m not a huge fan of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I disagree with the dichotomy between extroversion and introversion, for instance. However, it’s a useful tool to help us understand why most people like Jesse, Hank, and Walter Jr. As a reminder, here are the four dichotomies that make up the Myers Briggs.

Extraversion (E) – (I) Introversion
Sensing (S) – (N) Intuition
Thinking (T) – (F) Feelings
Judging (J) – (P) Perception

The most revealing indicators, and the ones relevant to my point, are the two middle ones. They indicate how we view information (S or N), and then how we process it (T or F).

If you’re an SF, you perceive the world through sensation, and you judge it through your feelings. This means you rarely look beyond the surface of an issue, and you mostly care about how that surface of an issue makes you feel.

The opposite of an SF is an NT. This means you look beyond the surface of an issue, and you think about an issue rather than care how it makes you feel.

If you’re a fan of Animus, then you’re probably an NT like I am. So as NTs we need to realize that not only do SFs exist, but they make up (*gulp*) 70 percent of the American adult population.

Most people you interact with are merely feeling their way through the surface level of your interaction. These people are your bosses, your professors, and probably your girlfriends.

Whenever you’re butting heads with someone at work, and it feels like you two cannot communicate about anything, just remember: they were probably rooting for Jesse, even up until the end of the series when it took, yet again, the intelligence of Walt to save him one last time.

At least take solace in the fact that SFs are easily led and manipulated.

You may not like it, you may not understand it, but if you want to get along in this world, you have to accept it.

PsychologyMark Derianjung