Literature Review

The critically acclaimed series Breaking Bad has been steadily keeping its momentum and popularity, even after it aired its finale in September of 2013. The captivating drama reels in its audience with an intriguing plot and action-packed sequence, which creates an exciting and realistic world for viewers.  In response to its popularity and realism, fans have created a plethora of websites and blogs, discussing everything from the moral implications of the series to recipes used on the show.  There are a variety of topics, highlighting both positive and negative aspects of the show for its viewing community.  In addition to the many topics discussed, there have been some discrepancies for important topics in the conversation surround Breaking Bad.  Fans passionately participate in discussing and enthusiastically celebrate Breaking Bad in many creative and engaging ways.

Nearly all of the Breaking Bad fan resources are available on the Internet.  The types of websites about the show are very diverse and cover many different topics, with the most common fan site being the blog.  There are official blogs created by AMC and unaffiliated blogs belonging to passionate fans, but not all of the blogs were created by supporters of the series.  Some of blogs and articles were created by people frustrated with the show’s popularity, but these sites are greatly outnumbered by those made by fans.  In addition to blogs, Breaking Bad makes considerable use of social media.  There are official pages on Facebook and Twitter with millions of likes and followers, but there are also active and popular fan pages as well.  On Facebook, Breaking Bad fan pages contain comics, videos, memes, and more.  Though there is only a single official Twitter handle for Breaking Bad, many actors, including Aaron Paul, posted frequently about the show.  One of the most impressive websites is the Breaking Bad Wiki.  This site is an extensive collection of every character, plot point, dialogue, and fact about the series.  The user made wiki has become an important tool for average viewers looking to clarify plot points and avid fans seeking subtle details.  One of the most unique fan sites is “Betting Bad,” a site created for betting on what would happen in final eight episodes of the show.  Risky bets received more reward than safe bets, with the winners receiving publicity and Breaking Bad merchandise, including the iconic “blue meth” candy.  The wide array of sources used by Breaking Bad fans parallels the range of topics and themes discussed.

Fan-made Los Pollos Hermanos

Fan-made Los Pollos Hermanos

Breaking Bad has an eccentric and expansive community of fans and critics.  The distinction between official and unofficial Breaking Bad sources is often quite small, as fan-made sources rival official ones in size and creativity.  Online Breaking Bad fan communities have published obituaries in newspapers and held a mock funeral in Albuquerque, where the series was filmed and took place.  Such elaborate enthusiasm stems from AMC’s dedication to supporting fans and igniting conversation.  While there are countless unofficial websites for Breaking Bad fans, much of the discussion regarding the show has been both generated and mediated by AMC and the cast of Breaking Bad.  Actor Aaron Paul’s extensive use of Twitter helped increase Breaking Bad’s presence on social media, which was the beginning of an active online community.  Along with Paul’s use of Twitter, creator Vince Gilligan and actors Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris have been featured on NPR to discuss their role in the series and the deeper, more symbolic implications of Breaking Bad.  These interviews serve as a staple for fan-made analysis of the series and dictate much of the conversation.  One of the most controversial and discussed topics is that of family and morality.  Many fans post their personal opinions on blogs and fan sites, but Gilligan’s interviews about themes gain the most publicity and respect.  However, part of what makes Breaking Bad fan communities so intriguing is how Gilligan’s intended message is interpreted.  Discussion about the series’ morality is not limited to fan sites; popular news sources, including magazines Psychology Today and The Atlantic, have published articles discussing the nature of morality in Breaking Bad.  Though motifs and symbols are often discussed by cast members, the unofficial Breaking Bad Wiki has become the definitive source for the plot, factual details, and motifs in Breaking Bad.  Fan devotion and media coverage of Breaking Bad is the result of the resounding impact the series has on the emotions and behavior of its viewers.

Teen cancer patient with Vince Gilligan (and Danny Trejo's prop head)

Cancer patient Kevin Cordasco with Vince Gilligan (and Danny Trejo’s prop head)

“Bright spots” have crept into the viewing communities following the series Breaking Bad, and they seem to emanate from the community’s tendency to become deeply absorbed in the lives of the character on screen.  Breaking Bad portrays the protagonist in the series as one who fights his diagnosis and decides to pursue a new endeavor in order to compensate for the short time that he believes he has left.  Therefore it seems a strong relevance in the fan-based communities has been established between the struggles of Walter White and themselves. One fan of the show was actually inspired to move to New Mexico after being diagnosed with cancer, where he enjoyed the natural beauty and connected to the struggles of Walter White in a way that that most viewers will never be able to achieve.  In addition to this, an article on Us Weekly, “Breaking Bad Premiere was Dedicated to Teen Fan who Died of Cancer,” referred to the dedication of the ninth episode of season five, “Blood Money,” to a teen fan who died of cancer. This brings out the reality of how much influence the show can have on its viewers. His mother stated, “It meant the world to him; they have no idea how they impacted my son. He talked about it all the time, he had a bucket list; one of [his wishes] was to meet Breaking Bad.” To him, it was fulfilling to get to meet these strangers whom he has gotten to know through the series. And the producers made an even louder bang when they announced that the young boy had contributed to the plot behind the season premiere, which made the entire situation that much greater. Once again, the connection felt between the viewers and the series allow big headlines within its community.  Thirdly, an article by CNN has put a spotlight on the negative issues arising from the influence of the series.  When simplified, the overall moral theme of Breaking Bad is a variant of the classic question, “Is it acceptable to steal/lie/cheat to get bread to feed your starving family?”  Critics have taken notice of the increase in the acceptance of once condemned behavior among the audiences of Breaking Bad, who sympathize with Walter White and apply his moral reasoning to their lives.

Breaking Bad has drawn attention to many important topics, but there are still aspects of there series that have gone nearly unnoticed.  Contrary to the “Bright Spots”, there are numerous angles of Breaking Bad that have received little attention and discussion. One aspect of Breaking Bad that has been neglected by viewers is the duality of the whole story and its male protagonist, Walter White. The TV series is a complexion of drama and comedy, family and crime, and darkness and brightness, which as a whole creates a more intricate and dissonant viewing experience in audiences than simple sensory effects like other TV shows.  The series is infused with graphic scenes of crime and warmhearted scenes of family. It also combines dark humor along with the sentimental monologue of Walter.  In a podcast on Splitsider, Vince Gilligan states “Drama and comedy are two muscles on the same arm.”  The fusion and shift of drama and comedy in Breaking Bad is often drastic and seamless that stimulates great emotional disorientation in viewers. Usually this emotional disorientation renders viewers a unique and novel experience, as commented by one user of Rotten Tomatoes: “You wince as you laugh. Breaking Bad may give you an oddly gratifying case of creeps.”  Meanwhile, numerous parallel characteristics can be spotted from the protagonist Walter White: a mild mannered chemistry teacher at work and an aggressive meth cook off work; a loving husband and father and a hostile partner; a lung cancer patient who never smokes; a bad boy for himself and a hero for his family. This complexity of characters encourages audiences to analyze them and the story in a deeper way.

Breaking Bad is an immersive, compelling, and addictive television series.  Viewers become attached to the show; some feel a personal connection to the struggles of Walter White, others admire Gilligan’s creativity and unpredictable plot.  The multidimensional characters and dramatic storyline captures viewers, driving them to engage in conversation about the series.  Interviews with Breaking Bad cast members keep fans satisfied with their ever-growing urge to be involved with the series.  Breaking Bad is dark, yet contains noticeable comic elements; it’s extraordinary, yet the characters and setting feel familiar and natural.  Even though the series has ended, Breaking Bad will continue to enthrall viewers and serve as a standard for television excellence.

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