by Brad Nelson
The sub-headline of this article could well be “Leave it to Beaver vs. Pornographic Violence” or even “Postmodern Jonah.” It’s regarding Jonah Goldberg’s essay that views the cable series Breaking Bad as some kind of great conservative series.
I’ve watched the first two seasons of the show and finally had to turn it off because — well — to gain entertainment value from it was soul-sucking. It’s full of death, violence, and just horrible stuff. One might find virtue in it from what not to do. But otherwise the show is just pornographic violence and nihilism-as-entertainment.
And certainly learning from the example of the bad cannot be said to be what this show is about. Jonah quoted the creator of the series as saying “Walt has behaved at times in what could be regarded as an evil fashion, but I don’t think he’s an evil man…” Game, set, and match. The star of the show (Walt) is about as evil of a man as you can perceive in our society, fictional though he may be.
We all have our guilty pleasures, but that show is just way too guilty in my opinion. Mea culpa. I watched it, but at some point I realized that it was poisoning me. Our culture right now is full of such poisons. And I don’t mean to sound like a fundamentalist crank (which I’m not) or fuddy fuddy. But neither praising the show as conservative nor gaining enjoyment from it doesn’t change the nature of the toxin.
Certainly many of Jonah’s points in his article are valid in the sense that these cable series have found a way to do things that movies can’t — as well as the point that early television was indeed early television and was in many ways still in an unsophisticated form.
But we were probably better off in the Golden Age of Television rather than the Gutter Age. It’s is disheartening to see Jonah equate the violence, sleeze, and soul-sucking nihilism of this type of show as “improvement.”
Jonah, turn off the TV and read a good book. My I suggest Les Miserables?
One delightfully conservative point that Jonah did make was this:
As Chesterton tells us, pure reason doesn’t get humanity very far. The merely rational man will not make commitments to causes greater than his own self-interest. We need binding dogmas to constrain us even when our intellects or appetites try to seduce us to a different path. When, through the arrogance of our intellect and the promptings of our egos, we decide that we can make the rules up as we go, we invariably relearn why we need those rules.
This is the best part of Jonah’s essay. But, for the most part, Breaking Bad is the worst of our culture and should be noted as such if one truly wishes to abide by Chesterton. • (1579 views)