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From bad to good: a change of heart

Conor Houlihan | Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hello, my name is Conor Houlihan, and I was “Breaking Bad” addict. I am finally free of this show’s bonds thanks to Carter Boyd’s Viewpoint column, “Breaking Bad: five seasons of sin,” (Oct. 14) which I thankfully read before going back to watch another episode on Netflix. (I think it was the one where Walter and Jesse made meth.)

I knew the article was going to be a life-changing experience when Boyd listed off Breaking Bad’s competition for the best show in television: “The Flintstones,” “The Cosbys Show,” “Andy Griffith,” “The Today Show,” ESPN and “Jeopardy.” Not only does Boyd’s list do away with pesky genres such as drama, sitcom, cartoon and game show, but also adds a television network (ESPN) to the contender’s for best show! I thought to myself, “A man who disregards the conventional definition of ‘show’ must know what the best show on television is.”

Captivated by Boyd’s audacity, I read on. Boyd proclaims that “Breaking Bad” is a good show for its viewers in the same way that crack is a good drug for dope fiends. Furthermore, he declares that the show draws in new victims not through some clever ad campaign, but through its already addicted viewers.

“The show’s followers, representing every age range, waited eagerly for their chance to attain that high while watching that week’s episode. After just a few doses the fans were hooked, addicted to the point of dependence on the show.”

I knew it! All this time I thought “Breaking Bad” was an expertly crafted show that utilized traditional plot techniques such as rising action, foreshadowing and climax to draw viewers to its massive fan base, but I now see I was just a helpless pawn in Vince Gilligan’s master plan. I wasn’t watching “Breaking Bad” to know how Walter and Jesse were going to get the methylamine for the next cook, I was watching this evil show because without it, I would go through the same symptoms of meth withdrawal. After one day off of “Breaking Bad,” I can already feel a lack of energy, extreme nausea and a desire to binge on my drug again. (Did they make the meth or not?!) Thankfully, Boyd set me on the straight path by leaving me with a simple rule to live by: If the show is good, it’s probably meth.

Eager to pick up new rules to add to my empty moral handbook, I read on into the third paragraph of the article. “If we step back and put our self-righteous American attitudes aside, it is visible that … ‘Breaking Bad’ is a bad show. While ‘Breaking Bad’ doesn’t appear to glorify rampant drug industry, excessively murderous violence, brief sexual innuendos and pervasive profanity, it nevertheless delivers those messages.”

I immediately took off my American flag shirt, shorts and socks I was wearing before taking in the imminent epiphany of Boyd’s statement. Before this article, I thought “Breaking Bad” was trying to display the tragic transformation of a well-meaning man into a ruthless drug lord. Furthermore, I thought the overarching theme of “Breaking Bad” was that a person is defined by whether or not he does what’s morally right during pivotal moments in his/her life. Boyd self-righteously showed me the true meaning of the show, to subtly undermine the audience’s morals until they themselves are just as evil as Walter White.

At this point in reading, it dawned on me that Boyd’s article suggests humanity lacks a moral conscience and is thus incapable of distinguishing even the most morally evil acts for the morally good. If true, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in section one, chapter one, article 6: “Moral Conscience, must be completely null and void.” In other words, what Boyd is graciously pointing out to the rest of us is that we are incapable of distinguishing right from wrong and thus mimic any cool action we see on a television or in theaters. I completely agree with this as it explains why I extorted businesses after “The Godfather,” led a few Scottish uprisings after “Braveheart,” started carrying a samurai sword after “The Walking Dead” and have a current affinity for chemistry equipment and organic compounds that I can’t pronounce! Without Boyd’s intervention, I’m sure it would only have been a matter of time before I was starring in my own meth making montage with my old high school chemistry teacher.

In the final paragraph of the article, Boyd suggests that we should instead be watching shows like “Securing Good,” a show that features Malter Might, the foil of Walter White, as he goes about spreading the Word of God. Now before this article, I thought this would make for awful programming, as morally good characters are likeable, but predictable because everyone can agree on the morally correct response to most situations. In contrast, Boyd has now shown me that I was wrong to believe that humans have a conscience, thus it is paramount that we have our morals fed to us in the form a weekly TV show.


Conor Houlihan can be contacted at chouliha@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.