Popular Culture Review Vol. 24, No. 2, Summer 2013 - Page 109

Becoming the One Who Knocks 105 exacerbates his social strain and influences him to cope through criminality. John Stogner and Chris L. Gibson suggest that, Problems caused by poor health can lead to all three types o f strain described by [General Strain Theory] . . . W hen access to health care is blocked or a condition cannot be ameliorated, individuals are forced to cope with these strains in some other way . . Health related strains can lead individuals to cope in unproductive ways such as lashing out in anger, committing property offences to obtain the financial resources needed for care, using substances that mask pain, and becoming depressed. (1151) In reaction to his health related strain, W alter copes through innovation. He teams up with his ex-student, Jesse, and begins cooking and distributing methamphetamine in an effort to secure his family’s financial stability and pay his OOP medical expenses. Although W alter is forced into adhering to society’s aspirational references, he quickly finds the institutionalized means, conventional labor, as substandard. Selling one pound o f methamphetamine provides W alter $35,000— almost his yearly income as a chemistry teacher. He estimates that a mere eleven drug deals can provide his family financial security for ten years after his death following his first seil to Tuco (“Seven ThirtyFive”). Furthermore, crime allows W alter to feel virile and alleviate many undesired ramifications o f his chemotherapy. In “A No-RoughStuff-Type o f Deal,” for example, W alter’s impotence is seemingly cured by his deviant actions. Following sexual intercourse in the back o f their car, Skyler asks W alter “where did that come from and why was it so good?” Walter, impassioned by his criminal behavior, quickly responds: “because it was illegal.” In this sense, innovation allows W alter to achieve his desire for success and reclaim his lost masculinity. The manufacturing o f methamphetamine is thus presented as the only adequate method for W alter’s financial success, whereas conformity is often presented as an emasculating experience throughout the series. Because a gendered division o f labor constituted the social constr uction o f masculinity as a full time laborer that acts as a sole breadwinner for his family, any deviation from this ideology constitutes gender role strain (Messerschmidt, Masculinities 67). Although W alter’s friends offer to help pay his bills, he ultimately refuses their aid; labeling the charity “face-saving bullshit” that he will have no pari in (“Gray M atter”).