Friday, May 03, 2013

Christians, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men

Patrick Schreiner recently wrote a blog about an on going discussion on the topic of whether or not Christians should watch the popular AMC series Mad Men.  I found it to be a helpful and thought provoking discussion as it compared Mad Men to another popular AMC series, Breaking Bad.  As an avid fan of Breaking Bad, and a person who gave up Mad Men after the second or third episode of the second season, I wrote the following...

I think the primary difference between a show like Mad Men and Breaking Bad is that within the narrative of Breaking Bad you have characters that personify the tension of good versus evil. Jesse Pinkman is the voice of consequence as he embodies the guilt and shame that Walter White should be feeling. Hank is attempting to stop the infamous Heisenberg, Saul is the token bottom feeder, and all this within and around the incredible story of arc of Walter White transforming (“chemistry is transformation”) into the villain (“I won”). Walter becomes the one you fear, Jesse the one you hope for redemption, and you reluctantly cheer for Hank to slay the mighty dragon of blue crystal cave. It has a dynamic ebb and flow of character development that accurately represents the tension and war of dark and light we all sense in the world around us.

In Mad Men, everyone is just statically bad; nobody is having the inner or outward dialogue of self-reflection. I watched Season 1 and got two episodes into Season 2 before giving up on it, and it always came across as expecting the viewer to make the decision about the characters. I was constantly saying, after each episode, "Well that was terrible. Not a single character is on an arc of redemption or quest for good.” You just end up feeling bad for them, which is a subtle message of victimization, “Oh these poor people, ruining their lives and marriages through selfish ambition and pride.” I didn’t stop watching it as a moral high ground decision; I stopped watching it because it made me feel depressed and dark after each episode. Perhaps that is the subtle genius of the show, in what was already eloquently put, “Mad Men follows the standard narrative of our ad-addled culture, which says that if you dress something up enough, people will buy anything–even things that are morally depraved and terrifying.

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