My opinion about Breaking Bad is well known. But I’d hate for you to think it was just a delicate constitution that kept me from enjoying Walter White’s descent. The three episodes of that show that I watched were gruesome in parts, for sure. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem for me was, there wasn’t a hero. It was all bad guys and no good guys. All giving in to our more base instincts and no triumphing over them. Sure, it showed realistic consequences to evil choices, but that’s all it showed. And that just doesn’t sit well with me or square with my experience of real life.
For days after watching it, I couldn’t shake that feeling of hopelessness. That feeling that perhaps we really are all that awful. Perhaps the only reason my husband isn’t cooking meth and dissolving dead bodies in the tub is because we managed to pay all our bills last month. But what about next month? What then?! And maybe some snide comment by me in a moment of pettiness will be what drove him to it. Because we are all so very terrible. And base. And weak.
But I was able to snap out of it eventually, because I DON’T really think that how Walter White responded to hardship is how I would respond, or how you would, or how almost any of us would respond. Because I happen to think that, deep down, most of us are pretty awesome.
And the only thing keeping that from shining through is that our lives are pretty boring. That’s why I love, love, love dystopias in general and zombie apocalypses in particular. Seriously, there is no better place than a zombie apocalypse to prove how secretly heroic we really are.
That guy at the grocery store who let you go ahead of him in line because your baby was fussing even though you have a whole cart full of stuff and all he had was some meat and a six-pack? In a zombie apocalypse that guy totally just slid across the counter and used a broken beer bottle to stab the zombie who was about to nom your toddler. Because he might be wearing a slightly profane t-shirt, but he is a HERO underneath.
And it goes both ways. That surfer who took Kelly’s handicapped parking spot? He totally gets eaten by zombies. (But in real life I wish him all the best and let’s all say a quick prayer for him, shall we?)
If (and bear with me here, because this is about to get weird), if I had access to one of those holodeck things like they have on the Enterprise, I would not use it to go to a pristine beach in the Bahamas, or to sit at the feet of holo-Jesus, I would TOTALLY go to a zombie apocalypse. With my husband. And the kids. And we would survive on our chickens’ eggs and the fruits of our garden (which grows way better in my fantasy world than it does in real life) and we would totally kick some butts and take some names. Although with zombies, I guess name-taking probably wouldn’t work, since they can’t talk and we’d be better off stabbing them in the brain than kicking them anywhere. But whatever. We would be awesome.
We would make sacrifices, we would help people in need, we would be heroic. And so would a lot of other people.
And that’s why I think The Walking Dead is so much more realistic than Breaking Bad and why watching it makes me want to jump out of bed in the morning, do a Tiger Woods whole-arm-pump and attack the day with an enthusiasm heretofore not seen by mankind. Breaking Bad made me want to stay in bed all day and eat ice cream because, really, what’s the point?
The Walking Dead shows regular people rising to the occasion in crazy circumstances not of their own doing. It shows people coming together and helping each other in a crisis. It shows us the best we can be.
To be fair, there are also some people who do not rise to the occasion. There are realistic human failures. There are people who fail and are redeemed, and people who fail and are not redeemed. But I think it presents a much more realistic cross-section of humanity.
And then there are the zombies. Zombies are the perfect adversary. Back in the day you could go to war against another country and hate ’em, hate all of ’em. But we can’t do that now, we understand that they are human beings too, fighting for what they believe, and we know that their countries are filled with innocent noncombatants. We can’t even be sure of being able to hate alien invaders. Remember Ender’s Game? Just when we were feeling awesome about having totally destroyed the “bugs,” he writes a sequel
and it turns out we just didn’t understand each other. Oops.
Even drug dealing terrorists probably have mothers who love them.
But zombies? Oh, we can hate zombies. We can kill zombies. Zombies are not nuanced. They do not have better natures to which we ought to appeal. We must kill zombies. For humanity.
If you choose to watch it, you should be aware that The Walking Dead is very, very, very gorey. Entrails abound. I watched it on my iPad so I could cover it with my hand when things got rough, which was a lot.
The Walking Dead is not a Catholic show. The second, I think, episode is kinda racy, characters we like engage in premarital sex, use contraception, and consider abortion. But I felt that each of those issues was addressed in a way that I could handle.
I really enjoyed the first and second seasons. They felt very real to me. In the second season especially, there is a plotline involving characters who have never had religion struggling to find and understand God in the tragedy and chaos of their changed world. It’s just a nod to it, but it’s something that should be there, and it is.
For me, the third season got pretty weird. It has a Lost-like quality of mysterious phone calls and ghostly visions and a bad guy with an eye patch who is the kind and benelovent leader and protector of a town by day and a kidnapping murdering head-collecting psychopath by night. I’m pretty sure that guy doesn’t exist in real life. Also, our hero gets conflicted and a bit morally relativistic. I do not like my heroes conflicted (<shaking fist> I’m talking to you new Superman). But they managed to pull me back in by the end of the season and I can’t wait to see what happens in season four, which premiered last week and is available online for those of us without cable.
My kids keep wanting to eat and be taken to soccer practice, so I haven’t seen either of the first two episodes yet. But I’m hoping for more awesome. The first three seasons are available on Netflix.
Breaking Bad =