Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 104

100 Populär Culture Review Towards the conclusion o f the pilot episode, Jesse Pinkman and W alter have a brief discussion conceming the chemistry teacher’s atypical decision to begin a criminal lifestyle: JESSE. Teil me why you’re doing this. Seriously. W ALTER. W hy do you do it? JESSE. Money, mainly. WALTER. There you go. JESSE. Nah, come on man. Some straight like you, giant stick up his ass all o f a sudden, at age sixty is just gonna breakbad? [...] WALTER. I am awake. (“Pilot”) Breaking Bad, at its very core, is a show about socialization and society’s views o f success. Achieving hegemonic masculinity through economic productivity serves as a focal point for plot and character development in the series, as the corrupting influence o f the American Dream pressures W alter to only think in terms o f financial success (Stephenson 211). Because he fails to meet criteria required by society’s aspirational references (i.e., the culturally defined goals and interests o f a particular population), the need for financial stability becomes an alienating social construct that forces W alter into a socially strained existence. Summing up this experience, W alter bemoans, my wife is seven months pregnant with a baby we didn’t intend. My fifteen-year old son has cerebral palsy. I am an extremely overqualified high school teacher. When I can work I make $43,700 per year. I have watched all of my colleagues and friends surpass me in every way imaginable, and within eighteen months I will be dead. (“Bit By a Dead Bee”) Throughout the show’s five seasons, wealth becomes analogous to freedom and financial stability becomes a crucial factor for keeping W alter alive following his diagnosis o f terminal lung cancer. Desperately desiring autonomy, W alter awakens from his socially induced intolerable Situation by circumventing the institutionalized means for obtaining economic security through deviant channels. Robert K. Merton, in his seminal work “Social Structure and Anom ie,” provides a theoretical framework for understanding both the life W alter desires and the social strain he endures on a daily basis: