Intertextual Representations of Drugs, Violence, and Greed in Breaking Bad
Rasmussen, Douglas Eric 1973-
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In the last two decades there has been a spate of what is considered quality television. The success of these shows, especially in regards to critical approval, has broadened the perspective from which the medium of television is viewed. Television now affords the viewer and critic alike the opportunity to examine and scrutinize elements of these shows in much the same way literature can be examined. A notable example of this phenomenon is the AMC cable show Breaking Bad (2008-2013), the subject of my research. Specifically I am focusing on the idea of intertextuality in order to unravel, in much the same way a critic examines allusions, symbolism, and the imagery of a printed text, an interpretation of Breaking Bad which requires multiple and subsequent viewings. My methodology is to examine the sampling of the intertextual references in Breaking Bad with the specific focus of discussing their relationship to the show’s themes of neoliberalism and medical debt. I have chosen a selection three different types of intertextual reference: music, poetry and film. I have opted to focus on the references that engage in a critique of neoliberalism. By looking at these examples of each type of reference and how they connect to series protagonist Walter White (Bryan Cranston), I read the series’ narrative arc and the psychological split of its main character, Walt, into the Heisenberg persona he uses as a drug kingpin, as related to the effects of unregulated capitalism brought on by neoliberalism. I will analyze examples of intertextuality from the show and then conclude by illustrating how the overall response of frustration to the advent of neoliberal economic policies can be determined from each of these references and Breaking Bad as a whole. It is my contention that by looking at these elements and how they contribute to the narrative of Breaking Bad that the show is drawing a parallel between Walt’s psychological corruption and the corruptive influence of neoliberalism.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeBartley, William; Muri, Allison; Dyck, Erica
Copyright DateJune 2019
Breaking Bad, Television Studies, Narcocorridos, Westerns, Walt Whitman, Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre