Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 105

Becoming the One Who Knocks 101 It is o n ly w h en a System o f cultural values extols, virtually above all eise, certain common Sym bols o f su ccess fo r the population at large w h ile its social structure rigorously restricts or com pletely elim inates a ccess to approved m odes o f acquiring these Symbols fo r a considerable part o f the same population, that antisocial behavior ensues on a considerable scale . . . [because] frustration and thwarted aspiration lead to the search for avenues o f escape ffom a culturally induced intolerable Situation. (68 0 , M erton’s em phasis) W alter is socialized to desire an opulent lifestyle; however, he does not have the proper means to obtain it as a high school chemistry teacher and a carwash clerk. His aspirations greatly exceed his agency, and because he has been inculcated with ideologies o f material success inherent in the American Dream, he remains dissatisfied with his position in society because he believes he has “nowhere to go but up” (“Full Measure”). He is forced to work a menial job in which he feels consistently emasculated by his boss, and he cannot find satisfaction as a high school teacher because he is overqualified; fails to reach his students; and is often disrespected. As a result, W alter becomes socially strained and is induced to adjust to his painful existence by finding alternative means to fulfill his desires. M erton delineates five coping strategies individuals use to alleviate social strain: conformity, innovation, ritualism, rebellion, and r etreatism. Conformity occurs when an individual accepts both the cultural goals and the institutionalized means for acquiring the society’s aspirational references; this is the most common and widely diffused dass. W alter begins the series as a conformist by working two jobs in order to provide for his family and procure financial stability. However, Breaking Bad ultimately presents conformity as inadequate because it fails to provide W alter the affluence he desires and challenges his conceptions o f masculinity in both the home and workplace. Therefore, W alter chooses to innovate. Innovators, the prime interest o f criminologists, accept wealth as an ultimate goal but find the conventional means o f procurement either inadequate or unavailable. The innovator commits crimes to acquire society’s aspirational references because “unrelieved ambition may eventuate in illicit attempts to acquire the dominant values” (Merton 680). Typically, ritualists do not have proper avenues for achieving the cultural ideals o f society;