Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why I Can't Watch Breaking Bad

My social life suffered greatly when Breaking Bad took the population of young adults by storm. I am part of the small minority that not only didn't watch this show, but refused to watch this show. No, I did not abstain from viewing as a hipster act of angst motivated by a desire to be unique (ew).

This is partially due to the nature of the activity in college culture. The practice of watching TV with friends in college is an activity worth anthropological examination. It is a phenomenon defined by the blank stares of overly worked young people directed at a glowing box, around which they gather in the hopes of being distracted from their stress. It is a sympathetic, therapeutic process, most always associated with binge eating. The enterprise is strangely social, despite the fact that conversation is minimal, and takes place almost entirely during commercial breaks. Through shrieks of anticipation and disappointed head nods, the educated youth of my generation "vibes" over similar opinions on the characters, incidents and love interests present in popular TV shows. I would venture to say that, among college students, this new tradition is second only to drinking copious amounts of alcohol and attending sporting events.

And so commenced my social isolation.

I wish I could like the show, I really do. Believe me, the inside jokes that went over my head, the strings of tweets I straight up didn't understand, and the references to characters that I mistook for real people were almost enough to make me watch it. But, I have a problem with shows and movies like this that puzzles the rest of my generation.

I can't stomach the brutality, or the emotional anguish.

I know that when I watch whats-his-face kill some poor boy who got into the drug game way too young, I will not only experience inner turmoil, but my heart rate will escalate to the point of uncomfortable. Not to mention, the suspenseful music and dark alley ways full of meth heads will have me sweating and fidgeting out of anticipation and fear. All of this, while I sit by my seemingly unaffected peers.

No, after hearing the plot of the series (the main character has CANCER) and taking into account how disturbed I was after watching The Dark Knight Rises, I decided watching Breaking Bad in my precious free time would not be good for my health or stress level.

My experience with Breaking Bad is weirdly reminiscent of a childhood memory I have which involved a class viewing of March of the Penguins and my tear soaked sleeve. It seemed that only one other person in the auditorium had shed a tear over what I considered to be the heart-wrenching chronicle of the penguins' struggle to keep their eggs warm in the merciful cold during their winter migration. Sometimes, the egg wouldn't make it and penguin couple (who mate for life) would be visibly upset. "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU HEARTLESS PEOPLE, THEY WANTED A BABY SO BADLY!" I wanted to shout.

Does this make me some weak form of human? Maybe now it's simply the norm to engage in media with a preemptive wall that you as the viewer subconsciously build to separate yourself from the expected appalling content. Suggesting that the violence and atrocities we hear about in everyday news has permeated our culture so heavily that we are now looking for extreme ways to shock ourselves into feeling anything at all.

Granted, I'm assuming a lot about the show from what I've gathered from the sounds that leak under my closed bedroom door while my friends watch it in the living room, their jaws loose and eyes wide. But to me, these images are not so easily taken. I know there are situations similar to the happenings in the show that happen to real people somewhere, and I do not feel entertained from getting a glimpse into their messed up lives. I feel disturbed.

Maybe this makes me sheltered, or just plain sensitive, but I would much rather de-stress by watching shows with predictable happy endings, inconsequential character conflicts and an overarching theme of humor. I know this is not realistic, but it does make me feel more warm and fuzzy than the scarring image of an acid soaked dead body.

I am aware this makes me "uncool," as society dictates the coolest people are legally obliged to have some sort of dangerous, bad ass vibe that normally takes form in drug use or well worn skimpy clothing. Maybe this adds to the urgent obsession with a show, a race to prove that you're not a ninny like myself.

Perhaps the show's viewers are missing a certain "edge" in their life. Yes Dad, I'm talking to you. After a long day at work or in class, do you wonder what your rebellious teenage self would think of the sellout you've become? Well, you now have the ability to live vicariously through a middle-aged teacher-turned-drug-lord.

I mean no offense to the artistry of the show, as I've heard the cinematography is fantastic and the acting phenomenal. I obviously have no right to speak on these things. But the gory, violent, drug-ridden plotline I must compare to the tactics of the Miley Cyrus in her infamous VMA performance: both were just shocking enough to gain attention.
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