Last February, the prosecutor and the court of Germany convicted a 90 year-old-man who had worked as a medical officer for the army in Auschwitz and put a 94-year-old Nazi guard in prison for four years. The counsel claimed that it is hard to judge them due to their old age and dementia, but the court did not accept it. This doesn't sound like a far-away story for us. South Korea too, had lots of controversy about pro-Japanese group settlement and sometimes they self-justified that their action was for their family and they didn't have a choice. Is it enough to justify or allow wrongdoing if it is due to an unavoidable reasons? From this drama 'Breaking Bad', you can find a moral issue deeply related to this subject.
'Breaking Bad' is widely regarded as one of the greatest television series of all time. The series aired for five years (2008~2013) broadcasting five seasons and a total of 62 episodes. By the time the series' finale aired, the series was among the most-watched cable shows on American television. Let's see how this drama captivated viewers.
The story of ‘Breaking Bad’ begins with a struggling high school chemistry teacher Walter White, who is diagnosed with inoperable advanced lung cancer. He was also doing a part-time job to earn money to support his pregnant wife, and his son who has cerebral palsy. But he knows he doesn’t have much time so he starts to work with his former student Jesse and devises a scheme to become partners in an attempt to combine their skills to manufacture and distribute methaphetamine. The plan was for Walter to cook the product and Jesse using his street connections, to distribute it.
From there, Walter begins to change while being influenced by mafias and other drug smugglers. A timid, law-abiding spirit and an exemplary man who loved chemistry gradually turns into a free-hearted man who would do anything to achieve his goal. Walter surely knows what he is doing but he self-justifies his actions by saying he needs to do it for his family. In contrast, his former student Jesse feels guilty as he commits an immoral act.
As there is no eternal falsehood, his family notices that Walter is making drugs and that he has become a tycoon criminal. In this process, Walter doesn’t mean for his brother-in-law Hank to die but he provides the cause of his death. Due to this event, his family turns away from Walter and Walter becomes isolated from his family.
Walter: You need to understand what I have been doing....
Skyler: If you say that what you have all done was for family…..
Walter: I did it for myself. I enjoyed it and got used to it. And…I…was….really alive.
After the last talk with his wife, Walter goes to save Jesse and end his relationship with the mafias who killed Hank and kidnapped his disciple. In the end, he finally kills all the mafias using a trap but he gets badly injured while trying to protect Jesse. Walter has lost everything so he asks Jesse to kill him. But Jesse can’t kill his teacher so he runs away. The drama ends with siren sounds heard from far away while Walter slowly closes his eyes.
In ‘Breaking Bad’, the ‘estrangement effect’ is used to prevent viewers from feeling empathy to this antihero. This kind of effect is frequently used in many theaters of the absurd. It functions to influence the audience to become immersed in the work. For example, they might use music that doesn’t fit with a scene or put in humorous scenes. In fact, Walter, Jesse, and the mafia are relatable and have distinct personalities, but they fall low due to the unavoidable situation and then have to eventually pay for what they have done. From this, we can find a meaningful moral; ‘what comes around goes around’. Like this famous moral says to us, the penalty for wicked acts must be paid in the long run. Even if it is for other people, evil acts cause harm to other people eventually. Also, this drama vividly shows us the collapse of the middle class due to neo-liberalism and financial crisis. You will be able to enjoy this drama while keeping an eye on a moral issue and learn English at the same time.
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