Vincent Aragon Megan Abrahamson English 220-032 19 February 2013 The Breaking Bad Fandom I. Introduction Have you ever seen a show where the main character gradually transforms into a fragment of their former self and becomes the show’s villain? This is exactly the case in AMC’s television drama series, Breaking Bad, which shows the transformation of a hardworking family man into a maniacal drug kingpin. This series, created and directed by Vince Gilligan, is quickly becoming one of the most popular and compelling television shows ever created.
With each season, the fandom behind Breaking Bad continues to grow, as the main character’s journey becomes darker and his personality more twisted. Critics and fans attribute the show’s success to Gilligan’s well-written plot, outstanding character development and, most importantly, the dramatic transformation of the show’s main character: Walter White. The Breaking Bad fandom finds the show’s bizarre storyline particularly intriguing. The series begins with Walt, who is an underachieving high school chemistry teacher, being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer (Rockard). This leaves him with approximately two years to live.
With his future in doubt and the financial burden his treatments will cause his family; Walt enters a world of drugs and crime. He begins secretly producing and selling methamphetamine with his former student, Jesse Pinkman, in hopes that he will obtain enough money to secure his family’s financial future before he dies (Rockard). While doing this he tries to maintain his family life, but gradually loses himself and becomes more like “Heisenberg,” his drug dealing alter ego. II. Fandom Description Breaking Bad grew as a series that some critics were not particularly fond of.
On the other hand, fan ratings show that the majority of people were behind it from the beginning. Since season one, viewer ratings have experienced a small rise from 9. 2 to 9. 7 out of a possible 10 rating (Metacritic). However, it is the critics that are now convinced of the genius behind the show. Only earning a 74 of a possible 100 in the series’ first season, Breaking Bad went on to earn an 85 for season two, an 89 for season three, a 96 for season four, and an incredible 99 of 100 for the first eight episodes in season five (Metacritic). This shows hat despite initial questions from critics, fans have always felt a particular attraction to this show and its unique circumstances. Like many of the current AMC greats, Breaking Bad is geared toward the 18-49 and 2554 demographic (AMC). This network typically brings in audiences with a wide range of age groups and the majority of its viewers (55%) are male (Collins). However, the gender gap within Breaking Bad is much more noticeable with its male viewership receiving twice the amount than that of its females in major demographic groups (Adalian).
Since its season one premier, Breaking Bad has seen its greatest viewership come from the male 18-49 category and it continues to be the major driving force for the fandom behind the series. The season five midseason finale set a series high with over 2. 9 million viewers and saw the biggest increase in the 18-49 group which increased by over 34% (Moaba). Though the viewership of Breaking Bad is covered by a wide age range, it does particularly well with the viewers between 21 and 35, which saw a 15% increase since season four’s premier (Adalian).
With each season, Breaking Bad continues to grow because it is able to grab a new viewer’s attention with any one of its episodes, whether it is a season premier, finale, or any one between (Metacritic). Gilligan is able to pique the interest of new viewers with every episode and the ending of each seems to be a cliffhanger, leaving the viewer wanting more. Breaking Bad is becoming increasingly popular as fans continue to spread the news of its greatness. There are the fans that have religiously kept up with each episode since day one.
In contrary, there are others who have heard about it and now find themselves racing through the episodes on websites, such as Netflix and Hulu. The internet can be seen as major reason for this influx of fans and viewers over time. Fans have been telling their friends and expressing their praise for the show over social media networks such as, Facebook and Twitter, while also voicing their thoughts, opinions, and predictions over blog, video, and article comment streams.
With the current midseason break and the series’ final eight episodes set to air in July, discussion of various aspects and issues within Breaking Bad’s fandom is happening now more than ever. III. Fandom Discussion Like any fandom, the fans behind Breaking Bad have particular views on issues that they feel are prevalent to the show’s existence. Some of the views are considered mainstream, while others deviate from the norm. Nonetheless, it is this type of discussion that fans partake in that is one of the most crucial components in creating a fandom behind any text.
One of the driving points and themes behind Breaking Bad is that Walt was a good man, whose journey to the dark side was result of extreme circumstances, choices, and consequences. The show’s creator and primary writer has come out and stated that at the beginning of the series Walt is a seemingly insignificant man with good intentions. It was Gilligan’s intention turn a mild-mannered high school teacher into a hardened criminal or in his own words, “take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface” (Coyote).
Despite these statements, there are relatively new viewers and even fans, who may or may not know of these statements that have latched onto the notion that Walt was always a man with a sociopathic and evil mindset. In an interview with Walt’s actor, Bryan Cranston, the reporter asks for Cranston’s take on Walter White. Prior to this, the reporter tells Cranston that he had to explain to his friend that “Walt is a monster, Walt was always a monster, and it took the diagnosis to bring that out of him” (Hit Fix). Cranston’s response stuns the man, as he states: That’s a good assessment, but you are completely wrong.
You must find the humanity in the man… For me, it was the circumstances and things that got out of control. Anyone, even the meekest person among us, is dangerous given the right set of circumstances. Things can turn. Given the right set of circumstances, any human being could become a completely different person and be perceived as evil. (Hit Fix) With the knowledge of the writer and actor’s true intentions it would seem as though all people would take these points and realize the way in which the series came to be.
However, when people begin to argue the notion that he was a spiteful man with bad intentions coming in to the series, they do have point that deserves consideration. In an article titled, The Big Secret of Breaking Bad: Walter White Was Always A Bad Guy, Scott Meslow argues that Walt’s capacity to “break bad” happened long before the series began and this is explained in the season one episode called “Buyout. ” In this episode Walt is offered a job and money for his treatment by Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz.
He respectively turns down the offer, but is infuriated that his wife told them of his sickness. Elliott, who is Walt’s graduate school friend and Gretchen, who is ex-girlfriend are the co-founders of a multi-billion dollar company, called Gray Matter Technologies. Walt was in line to be a co-founder, but bought out his share for $5000 and much of research led to the eventual breakthrough of the company (Meslow). There are fans that believe this resentment of a missed opportunity is the true source of Walt’s eventual craves for money, power, and recognition.
Fan discussion is great because it results in different fans to critically analyze other people thoughts and to formulate their own opinions about the series. The issue of Walt’s true character and identity entering the series plays a key role within the fandom of Breaking Bad because the way in which a fan views this topic defines their perception as to what Walt’s motivation and attitude is throughout his journey. The discussion about this topic fuels great debate over the roots of Walt’s character and causes different fans to accept and, at the very least, acknowledge a view that is contrary to their own.
Despite Gilligan and Cranston coming out and stating that Walt transformation of character was circumstantial, the Walt was always evil view has a side that plays a role in supporting the overall theme laid out by Gilligan. While many fans go back and forth on the topic over blogs and comment streams, it is the fans that are able to take the analysis of both sides and realize pieces of each argument can support each other and make the show’s dynamic that much stronger.
Walt’s missed opportunity with Gray Matter Technologies was certainly a huge regret in his life, but it was not until he lost his family’s trust that he began seeking power and recognition. There was always resentment and spite within Walt, but these are feelings that can be conjured up within any individual. At the beginning of the series, he was still the good, loyal family man that wanted nothing more than the security of his family’s future. Once his family, and most importantly wife, knew who he was and began to fear and resent him, he started allowing Heisenberg to take over control because he felt it was all he had left.
He turned down Elliott and Gretchen’s offer because he was a prideful man, who wanted to leave a memory and legacy that his family would truly cherish. In the end, it was his pride and ego that put him in desperate circumstances, which led to his choices. It was the repercussion of these choices that eventually changed him into the man he now is, an evil, power hungry, drug kingpin. IV. Conclusion Breaking Bad is series that has brought together more and more fans over the course of its existence. People have begun to recognize the brilliance of the writers and cast of the series.
The most intriguing aspect is that this series is doing something that has never been done before on a television series. In transforming the main character from a person the fans sympathize for into a criminal, the fandom’s loyalty to its main character is put to the test. It has left some people completely despising who Walt has become and it makes others wonder how it is they can still be rooting for a person who is doing such terrible things. Breaking Bad, as it relates to society, shows how any person, given the right set of circumstances, can completely change and become a person of good or evil, just as Walter did.