Tag Archives: Vince Gilligan

Quoted: Malcolm Harris on Race In Breaking Bad

Bryan Cranston as Walter White. Image via Green Bay Press Gazette.

Demographically, the viewers AMC wants are more likely to do a lot of pills than unscrew a light bulb to smoke some ice, even if the substances are chemically similar. There are plenty of expert scientists making tons of money cooking up and selling amphetamines, but they’re not robbing trains or toting guns. Big Pharma brings in a $250 billion annually in the U.S. alone, much of it from the same chemical compounds in White’s lab. When it’s 89 percent pure, it’s illegal meth; when it’s 99 percent pure, methamphetamine is sold by Lundbeck Inc. under the trademark name Desoxyn, for “the short-term management of exogenous obesity.” Walter isn’t making crank; he is manufacturing black-market pharmaceuticals.

A “Breaking Bad” in which the street dealers were diluting the product would have had Walter and his partner Jesse Pinkman competing with every local operation, struggling to set up a larger distribution network without costly middlemen and, well, interacting with meth users a lot. But “The Wire on Ice” isn’t sexy enough to sell a Dodge, and a teacher slanging to his fucked-up former students would turn stomachs, not open wallets. Suffice to say it would be a darker show.

Which brings us to the other thing that sets White and Pinkman apart from their competitors: color. And I don’t mean blue.

The white guy who enters a world supposedly beneath him where he doesn’t belong yet nonetheless triumphs over the inhabitants is older than talkies. TV Tropes calls it “Mighty Whitey,” and examples range from Tom Cruise as Samurai and Daniel Day Lewis as Mohican to the slightly less far-fetched Julia Stiles as ghetto-fabulous. But whether it’s a 3-D Marine playing alien in “Avatar” or Bruce Wayne slumming in a Bhutanese prison, the story is still good for a few hundred million bucks. The story changes a bit from telling to telling, but the meaning is consistent: a white person is (and by extension, white people are) best at everything.

- From “Walter White Supremacy,” in The New Inquiry

[h/t Rania Khalek]