Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 106

102 Populär Culture Review however, they maintain the institutionalized norms, and painstakingly work toward unachievable goals. Rebels abjure the dominant notions o f success and, in tum, Substitute new goals and Standards in its place. Finally, retreatists— because they perceive society’s goals as unachievable— reject both the cultural aspirations and the institutionalized means by completely dropping out o f society. Such individuals constitute the clientele o f W alter’s illegal enterprise: i.e., the addicts that use methamphetamine as a means to escape their world o f strife. By focusing the plot o f Breaking Bad on W alter’s impeded pursuit o f financial security, Vince Gilligan presents his decision to cook methamphetamine as the product o f social strain. Socialized to strive for the Symbols that equate wealth and Status in American society but unable to achieve them through conventional channels, W alter tums to crime as an avenue for obtaining the financial stability he so greatly desires. In this sense, Breaking Bad justifies the criminal actions o f W alter by presenting the social world he navigates as a catalyst for strain that motivates his criminal innovation. He becomes an anti-hero for Americans stmggling financially during the great recession as he successfully circumvents an arduous social structure that impedes his success (Koespall and Arp ix). His strain is indicative o f a nocuous value System produced by Am erica’s unbridled commitments to the American Dream: a frame o f reference that forces many individuals to cope with criminality (Stephenson 211). As an alienating social construct, the American Dream establishes two major pieces o f a rigid social structure individuals must negotiate in an attempt to find prosperity. First, the symbols that equate wealth and Status in the United States instill an aspirational reference within the population at large: i.e., its ideology socially constructs common goals, interests, and purposes for all Americans. As a result, the mythos o f the American Dream constructs lofty aspirations within the populace that are economically unattainable to most Americans. In order to acquire these symbols o f success, Americans must negotiate the second element o f the social structure: the permissible means for acquiring wealth and success within a particular society. Because the aspirational references perpetuated by the mythos o f the American Dream are by definition inaccessible to many, the regulatory norms that dictate their realization (e.g. adequate paying jobs) ostracize a large segment o f the population and ultimately perpetuate social strain.