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In this analysis I will be examining how the theme of the importance of money and self-preservation in American society plays into the television series Breaking Bad. This analysis takes into account multiple scenes from the show and multiple characters and their reactions to money.
I chose to examine this show because of its growing popularity and following. It has climbed the ranks as one of the best shows on television, and it is about something as taboo in our society as cooking methamphetamines. This analysis examines the first episode of season two entitled “Seven Thirty-Seven”. In this episode it is easy to see that one of the main themes of this show is that American life revolves around money and the desire of self-preservation. In Breaking Bad not one adult character does not do the things that they do without the motive of money in mind.
The popular television show Breaking Bad is about a high school chemistry teacher named Walter White who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. To support his son and pregnant life and try and give them enough money to live without him he resorts to the lucrative business of manufacturing methamphetamines. Walt’s pregnant wife Skyler also has to deal with her kleptomaniac sister.
An initial scene where I identified this theme was the scene when Walter and his partner Jesse were engaged in a high steaks meth deal with their distributor Tuco. Over the episodes before “Seven Thirty-Seven” Walt and Jesse had become business partners with Tuco, but they had become fearful of Tuco’s psychotic ways. In this drug deal Tuco beats one of his bodyguards to death after he makes a seemingly insignificant comment. Although Walt and Jesse fear for their lives, they still cooperate with Tuco and make the deal. They continue with the deal because if they had not then they would have been out twenty thousand dollars. This is one of the desperate measures that Walter takes to ensure that he will have the money to support his family and pay his medical bills. By doing this he is trying to preserve himself through his family. Self-preservation can be seen as an important aspect of American life. If he does not put his life in danger by dealing with Tuco then his chemistry-teaching job will prove to be insufficient in supporting his family. Jesse on the other hand is just trying to get by because he has found it difficult to leave the meth cooking profession and get a real job. Jesse is stuck in the mindset that all he can do is cook meth, and in the first season when he tries to reform himself by moving in with his parents and getting a real job he is confronted with circumstances that force him to go back into cooking meth.
Tuco, the greedy and psychotic meth distributor, is trying to make the large profit. Tuco buys the meth from Walt and Jesse at a cheap price and sells it for a profit. Tuco is the classic example of a businessman who understands the concept of supply and demand. Tuco witnesses such a great demand for Walt and Jesse’s product because Walt is an experienced chemist who makes almost completely pure methamphetamines. We can see Tuco’s want and need for Walt and Jesse’s product in the final scene of “Seven Thirty-Seven” where Tuco is hiding in the car with Jesse and forces Walt to get in. Tuco then makes Jesse drive off, effectively kidnapping him. Tuco does this because he is fearful of losing his meth production operation, and Walt and Jesse saw him murder a man. Since Walt and Jesse saw Tuco murder a man then it would be easy for them to testify against Tuco in court if they were to ever become more powerful than Tuco himself.
The two bodyguards who ultimately meet their demise at this drug deal are there because Tuco pays them good money to protect him since he is such a high profile businessman. It is obvious here that all of the involved parties are here strictly for money. No one is there just for fun, and it seems as if no one really wants to be there, especially not Walt and Jesse.
The other plot line of this episode involves Walter’s in-laws. Walter’s brother in law is a DEA agent named Hank, and his sister in law is a kleptomaniac named Marie. Marie’s kleptomania stems from the fact that Hank’s work does not support her self-indulgent lifestyle. Her kleptomania is revealed to the family when in the first season she steals a diamond tiara for Walt and his wife Skyler’s soon to be newborn. Skyler is appalled when while returning the tiara to the jewelry store she is accused of shoplifting. This creates a rift between her and her sister Marie that continues to grow when Skyler begins to ignore Marie. If Skyler had never tried to return the tiara because her family needed money instead of jewelry then no one would have ever found out about Marie’s kleptomania. Skyler’s need for money is the reason why her family begins to break down.
Marie’s husband, Hank, is a DEA agent who makes his money through busting big time drug dealers. He does not love his job or putting his life on the line, but this is what he does to provide for Marie. Being a DEA agent however is not a sufficient method for providing for Marie. Hank is in a dilemma because he is an agent of the law, but he cannot bust his wife for stealing because he does not want her to go to jail.
The online articles that I examined both offered viewpoints on whether or not money could buy happiness. The first article looked at a blue collar Kentucky worker who won the lottery and his life became riddled with trouble. The article brings up points about how money may not buy happiness because Americans have become much richer over the last several decades, but there has been no significant increase in Americans’ happiness. The second article explains how money can increase someone’s ability to enjoy life. I agree with this article more than the first because I would think that people who work hard for their money have more happiness in their accomplishments than someone who had just won the lottery.
In this television series there is no adult character that does not do what they do without money in mind. Walt, Jesse, and Tuco cook and sell meth for money. Tuco’s bodyguards protect Tuco for money. Skyler returns Marie’s shoplifted tiara to acquire more money. Marie suffers from kleptomania because she does not have money to afford purchasing those items. It is easy to tell that in this drama series that everyone’s lives revolves around either gaining money or not having enough money. Walter White’s main reason for trying to gain money, however, is deeper. Walt, Tuco, Hank, and Jesse all have one thing in common with their reason for trying to acquire money. They are all trying to get money for the reason of self-preservation. Self-preservation is their need to support themselves and or their families. Marie exhibits this need for self-preservation too, but she is more focused on her baby that she will soon have. The only character that is not focused on self-preservation is Marie. Breaking Bad is the perfect example of the importance of money in an American’s every day life.
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