Thursday, September 19, 2013

Walter White: It started with a need for control

I will talk about the brilliant Breaking Bad. But there will be no need for a spoiler alert. Any description of the show refers to the show as "Walter Mitty's descent into Scarface" - high school chemistry teacher who turns his brilliance into cooking meth and didn't know the path he would start on.

About 30 years ago I was faced with a choice to stay legal or stray. My decision was purely pragmatic - I didn't like the idea of one day answering the door to a shotgun in the face. These days my choice may be a little more about ethics. But then I wasn't presented with the challenges that Walter White was.

He was a beaten shell of a man at the start of the series, but with his cancer diagnosis he lost all control and it got even worse. Everybody closed in and dominated him. His poor health insurance had him in a corner. His wife was booking $90,000 specialists, (lovely) brother in law saying he'd take care of his family, soured business partner insisting to pay for treatment. All from love, but disempowering.

His major driver in season 1 was a need for control, with a little need for recognition. And thus started Walt's journey. I just watched it in s01e05 at the 36minute mark:

"All I have left is how I choose to approach this... These doctors, talking about surviving. One year, two years. Like it's the only thing that matters. But what good is it to just survive if I am too sick to work, to enjoy a meal, to make love? For what time I have left I wanna live in my own house, I wanna sleep in my own bed. I don't wanna choke down 30 or 40 pills every single day, lose my hair and lie around too tired to get up, and so nauseated that I can't even move my head. You, cleaning up after me; me some dead man, artificially alive, just marking time. And that's how you would remember me...

I choose not to do it"

But he found a way to do it. Heisenberg was born.

A transition point was when Walt tells his young partner "so why don't you sell the whole pound at once?" to which he got "to who? What do I look like, Scarface?"

It reminds me of a good 1993 film called "Falling Down" where Michael Douglas plays a "mini man" who looks like he has found his self esteem, standing up for the small guy. Until you find he's unhinged in the worst way.

My wife would be repulsed by much of what's in BB. She's a good person. But I will urge her to watch S01 - it's only seven eps. Sylvia teaches what used to be called "control theory" - that people are driven to control their life in terms of freedom, fun and two other main drivers. I hope she will watch at least the five minutes of s01e05. But the whole season tells the story.

And I thank Vince Gilligan for putting up such a searing opportunity for self reflection.

And a big takeout - I thank God I live in Australia. Our health system is not the US.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

No comments:

Post a Comment