Tag Article List: Better Call Saul

Nature vs. Nurture in Albuquerque: What Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul Teach Us About How We Talk About Criminals

Max Romanowski
Baylor University
Waco, TX, USA
max_romanowski@baylor.edu

Abstract

Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul focus on the criminal transformation of their two main characters, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk). While quite similar on the surface, Walter and Jimmy’s narratives represent two different criminal transitions, evoking the classic nature vs nurture conversation. Both of these shows bring the conversation to the idea of inevitability. The nature vs. nurture argument is a popular one because it acts as a teaching tool for how we think and talk about criminal behavior. At first, it follows that since criminality was in Walter White’s nature the whole time, his transition should feel the most inevitable, with the inverse being true of Jimmy. However, since Better Call Saul is a prequel to Breaking Bad, the opposite ends up happening. Even though Jimmy may only need the right people around him to be saved from his descent, his presence as Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad reminds the audience that it is Jimmy who is already fated to become a criminal. This dichotomy highlights the distinctive pedagogical opportunity present in both of these shows. Through their subversion of the concepts of nature and nurture, they allow for a unique teaching opportunity regarding how we talk about criminals. This article explores what they teach us and how their commentary can be used as a pedagogical tool for learning about criminal behavior in more nuanced ways. 

Keywords: Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Nature, Nurture, Social Learning Theory, Classical Conditioning 

 

Author Bio

Max Romanowski is a doctoral student at Southern Illinois University in the Department of Mass Communication and Media Arts. His research interests include television studies, particularly the sitcom, developments of new media, and science fiction in the 21st century.

 

Suggested Citation

APA:
Romanowski, M. (2019). Nature vs. Nurture in Albuquerque: What Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul teach us about how we talk about criminals. 6(2). Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/nature-vs-nurture-in-albuquerque-what-breaking-bad-and-better-call-saul-teach-us-about-how-we-talk-about-criminals/

MLA:
Romanowski, Max. “Nature vs. Nurture in Albuquerque: What Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul Teach Us About How We Talk about Criminals”. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol.6, no. 2, 2019. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/nature-vs-nurture-in-albuquerque-what-breaking-bad-and-better-call-saul-teach-us-about-how-we-talk-about-criminals/

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AMC’s Infamous Criminal Partnerships: Suppressing the Female Antihero

Melissa Vosen Callens
North Dakota State University
Fargo, ND, USA
melissa.vosen@ndsu.edu

Abstract

Using a feminist lens, the author argues that audiences have failed to embrace female characters on AMC as antiheroes, particularly when they are in romantic relationships with male antiheroes, for three primary reasons. First, female characters often challenge binary thinking, and thus, gender role stereotypes. Rather than exhibiting passive, yet nurturing characteristics, characteristics often associated with femininity and motherhood, female characters within the dataset frequently challenge their partners and exert their dominance. Second, writers often fail to fully develop female characters. The absence of their backstories (who they are and what they are thinking) makes it difficult for audiences to relate to and sympathize with these characters. Finally, within the dataset, female characters are rarely viewed as equals in the eyes of their male partners, and the audience takes cues from this treatment. When female characters are childless and/or respected by their male partners, they are more widely accepted as antiheroes. 

In this paper, the author examines some of the most famous criminal antihero partnerships in the top-rated AMC series over the last decade: Walter and Skyler White (Breaking Bad), Rick and Lori Grimes / Rick Grimes and Michonne (The Walking Dead), Don and Betty Draper (Mad Men), and Saul Goodman and Kim Wexler (Better Call Saul). Following this critique, the broader cultural implications of these representations are offered, particularly the disempowerment of women through motherhood.

Keywords: AMC, antihero, feminist criticism, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul

 

Author Bio

Melissa Vosen Callens is currently an associate professor of practice in instructional design and communication at North Dakota State University, Fargo. Her areas of research and teaching interest include Popular Culture and Online Education. Her writing can be found in The Ultimate Walking Dead and Philosophy, English Journal, Communication Teacher, Hollywood Heroines: The Most Influential Women in Film History, and A Sense of Community: Essays on the Television Series and Its Fandom, among other publications.

 

Suggested Citation

APA
Vosen Callens, M. (2019). AMC’s infamous criminal partnerships: Suppressing the female antihero. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 6(2). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/amcs-infamous-criminal-partnerships-suppressing-the-female-antihero/

MLA
Vosen Callens, Melissa. AMC’s Infamous Criminal Partnerships: Suppressing the Female Antihero. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 6, no. 2. Retreived from http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/amcs-infamous-criminal-partnerships-suppressing-the-female-antihero/

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