Friday, 27 September 2013

How will it end? Where will it end?

How will 'Breaking Bad' end?  I am referring of course to the sensational US TV show that's about to end.  And everyone wants to know 'how will it end'?  So 'how will it end'? 

One way to determine how 'Breaking Bad' will end is to watch the last episode, which will probably be as good an indication as any of how the show will end.  But surely this does not mean that I can't join in with the incessant speculation of UK journalists about how this sensational US show will end?  So, how will it end?  It's what everyone wants to know, so I ask again, 'how will it end'?

Probably the best thing to do is offer a few possibilities of 'how it will end':

(1) The first option is that I simply remind myself that it really doesn't matter how 'Breaking Bad' will end because I have never seen a single episode.  Funnily enough, I was in the US the week it began (2008, as I recall), and if I had had any interest whatsoever in watching this show, I would probably have decided to watch it then - presumably via DVDs - after seeing the initial trailer.  That trailer made no impression on me whatsoever so I opted not to watch it.  However, this does not mean that I should not join in with the national dialogue, and it certainly does not mean that I should not make every effort to get the words 'breaking' and 'bad' into as many sentences as possible.

(2) The fact that I have not yet seen 'Breaking Bad' does not mean that I should not start raving about it just before it ends.  After all, this is something which UK journalists seem to be very good at.  Take 'The Wire', for instance, which has been critically acclaimed in the US since it began in 2002.  It was not until 2009 - the year after it finished - when the BBC began broadcasting it and UK journalists started droning on and on and on about how wonderful it was.  'Breaking Bad' is clearly the continuation of a pattern.  But anyway, how will it end?  Well, the ending of 'Breaking Bad' will not really matter to UK journalists, who are bound to continue raving about it whatever happens.  Raving about a show like this is supposedly all about having your finger on the pulse, yet it seems odd that none of these UK journalists raved about either 'Breaking Bad' or 'The Wire' for the first five or six years of their existence.  Yet this did not stop 'The Guardian' from calling 'The Wire' 'the greatest show ever made' in 2009.  It is surprising that we rarely hear people talking about 'The Wire' in 2013, as one would imagine that 'the greatest show ever made' would still be under discussion after only four years.

(3) The third possibility is that journalists will eventually stop talking about 'Breaking Bad' in very much the same way they have stopped talking about 'The Wire' because they will discover yet another 'sensational' US show just as it is ending.  If the show in question has already started in the US, then it might be another two or three years before we get to speculate how that particularly 'sensational' show will end, but if it hasn't started yet, then clearly, the UK speculation will be a good five or six years away.  In my view, this is probably the most realistic of these options, but what do I know?

(4) One other possibility is that the name of Walter White has entered the consciousness of young people.  I am referring of course to the main character in 'Breaking Bad'.  As a teacher of race in the Americas, I would be much happier if young people were more familiar with the Walter White who led the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), whose very light skin tone enabled him to merge with southern whites and investigate lynching.  This is particularly interesting to me, as an upcoming Race in the Americas (RITA) conference at Leeds University will consider the theme of 'Skin Tone, Colourism and "Passing"'.  The other day, I advised one of my students to do a Google image search of Walter White.  This search brought up the image of - you guessed it - the bald, moustachioed white man known to millions of viewers as the central character in 'Breaking Bad'.  So, thanks to 'Breaking Bad', scholars of race in the Americas will now need to type 'Water White NAACP' if they want to see a Walter White who is less popular with viewers yet slightly more important to US history.  So thank you, 'Breaking Bad', for adopting the name of Walter White and making the real Walter White back into a second-class citizen.

So, the most important question remains, how will 'Breaking Bad' end?  Surely we cannot say at this stage.  But one thing is for certain: the behaviour of UK journalists remains as predictable as ever.  I am reminded of something Ken Russell once said of UK censors: 'They haven't changed.  Boys, you're still a load of crap.'

James O.

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