Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 107

Becoming the One Who Knocks 103 Unhappy with a social structure that impedes his needs and desires, W alter alleviates his social strain in Breaking Bad through innovation and gains autonomy throughout the show ’s five seasons by embracing his deviant alter-ego: Heisenberg. W alter’s social strain derives from two primary channels: his anxiety conceming his family’s economic stability in the wake o f his recent diagnosis and various insecurities stemming from his conceptions o f hegemonic masculinity in both the home and workplace. After leam ing that he has terminal lung cancer, W alter estimates that he must eam $737,000 dollars to secure his fam ily’s financial well being in the case o f his untimely death (“Seven Thirty-Seven”). In addition to money for “College tuition . . . health insurance for [Skyler] and the kids . . . gas, birthdays, and graduations,” W alter’s medical bills create a large bürden on him and his family (“I.T.F”). In “Cancer M an,” W alter suggests that he has to pay his doctors “$5,000 to teil [him] what [he] already know[s],” and his health insurance fails to cover much o f the cost for adequate treatments for his condition. Economic hardship resulting from medical expenses is a persistent theme in Breaking Bad —and rightfully so— as “the rapid growth o f health expenditures is one o f the most important economic trends in the United States in the post-W orld W ar II era” (Fuchs 973). Americans have many reasons to be dissatisfied with the current health care System: one-sixth o f the population lacks health insurance, costs are 150 to 200 percent o f those in other economically advanced nations, and these additional costs fail to improve the quality o f care (Menzel 582). As a result, out-of-pocket (OOP) medical expenditures are creating greater economic strains on families in America; 12 percent o f adults with insurance tend to see OOP expenditures that exceed 10 percent o f their income (Yu and Dick 2025). Breaking Bad presents the bürden o f OOP expenditures as the primary Stressor in W alter’s life that encourages him to cope through criminal channels. He quickly leams that his health plan is not absolutely optimal for covering the best cancer treatments and that many patients go bankrupt waiting to be reimbursed for medical expenses. These financial struggles are consistent with current research evaluating health care expenditures for patients diagnosed with cancer. Chastek, et. al. suggest that “cancer in the United States has been identified as the second most costly medical condition after heart disease. As a result o f the dramatic increase in cost and extent o f care, annual direct cancer costs are projected to rise from $104 billion in 2006 to $173 billion in 2020 and