Tag Archives: Breaking Bad

The Golden Age of Television

Readers, yours truly is not a person to whom the positives of life are either readily apparent or understandable, but even someone as typically dour as myself can’t deny that we are living in a golden age of television.

It’s he-re…

Now I’m not exactly sure why that is- why all of a sudden we seem to have had a jump in quality and quantity of shows. An age thing, perhaps? I considered that, but as much as we could argue that we simply prefer the television shows we had when we were in our 20s, I don’t think my generation is alone in the belief that TV is better now than it was a decade ago.

Let’s try to figure out why. Continue reading

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A Show By Any Other Name Would Be Just A Spin-off

“There is nothing new in art except talent,” words by Anton Chekhov that I was forced to look up because I’ve already cited Ecclesiastes in a prior post. They’re also words that I feel forced to grasp firmly on to as I’m faced with the deluge of television spin-offs soon to flood your televisions and my laptop with more and more of the same. With that being the worst case scenario, of course.

That being said, I’m going to try my best to take the stance I typically take on these sorts of things, which is that ultimately execution trumps everything else. Chances are that you wouldn’t have thought that a movie about a guy with his arm trapped under a rock would be able to hold your attention, but 127 Hours is great. The premise of a work of art does not damn it, though it certainly colours how audiences choose to approach and experience that work. Continue reading

Well, Breaking Bad Ended…

And needless to say, we’re all just sitting around trying to figure where to go from here. Some people are saying we should just start the series over again.

And honestly, that’s not the worst idea in the world. Similar to Arrested Development (excluding the miniseries), there’s a ton of hidden symbolism and foreshadowing that definitely gives the series plenty of rewatch value. Heck- you could just try tracking down the last few stubborn heretics who haven’t seen the show yet and watch them watch it. Which reminds me- anyone who hasn’t seen the finale should probably tune out now. I’m going to try to avoid spoiling anything, but just to be safe, better add CWR to your media blackout for the next 24 hours or so.

Continue reading

A Vindication of Piracy

A while ago (and with great reluctance from Evan), I posted a defense of piracy.

Understanding how much Evan and I differ on the subject, I wouldn’t have written anything more about it- had the BBC not just put forth an article kinda vindicating my entire position.

Oh, you better believe I’m gonna be cocky about this…

Continue reading

Beyond Good and Evil

Act 2, Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet has the titular character declare that “there is no good or evil, but thinking makes it so.” Years later, this same sentiment would be echoed by Milton’s Lucifer in Paradise Lost, vowing “The mind is its own place, and itself, can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

Moral ambiguity, in case you haven’t caught the drift, is the subject of today’s post. Our culture is becoming increasingly saturated with concepts and figures embodying this general rejection of our traditional measures of what right and wrong is. Jump back twenty years, and the definition of a bad guy would be fairly straightforward. A bad guy breaks the law. A bad guy hurts people. A bad guy lies. A bad guy uses people.

Today, all those things would describe five minutes of screen time with Breaking Bad’s Walter White…

Or Sin City’s John Hartigan…

Or The Walking Dead‘s Rick Grimes…

Or even any of these guys…

And lest anyone think that women are excluded from this mentality…

Now this isn’t the first time we’ve had a run of morally questionable heroes/antiheroes dominating popular culture. If I were to describe tough, unflappable, characters struggling against each other for their own ends and agendas, often in contradiction of the law- you’d probably assume I was talking about characters from some film noir piece.

And it makes sense, doesn’t it? Throw a mass of people in an economic depression with no end in sight, mix in distrust of the powers that be, add cynicism in regards to any progress or change, and when else can you expect but a tacit respect for the handful of people who do manage to carve themselves out a living. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, “right and wrong” doesn’t quite seem so relevant as “effective or not.” When you feel helpless and voiceless, chances are anyone whose managed to be independent and powerful is going to be attractive- be he/she a suave criminal, a cunning businessman, a shrewd politician (à la Game of Thrones), or even just an all-around tough guy (see Sons of Anarchy).

And we’re not just talking about TV shows here.

Who are the good guys and bad guys in Inception?

Think about it- exactly which characters were representing the side of justice, truth, and freedom? Or Killing Them Softly? The Godfather SeriesThe Big Lebowski?

Our heroes today aren’t crusaders, they’re survivors. They’re those who manage to carve out a slice for themselves in spite of law, society, and conventional morality. “Good and evil” simply aren’t relevant.

And y’know what? I’m not hear to pass judgement on any of that.

There’s strong arguments to be made on all sides for whether or not this is a good or a bad thing or, to put it into morally ambiguous terms, a productive or a destructive thing. There’s even a strong case to be made for the “morally ambiguous” characters on TV and in the movies still never straying too far from anything truly socially unacceptable. Alternatively, you could (and I would) potentially argue that the moral system we had before all this wasn’t actually all that moral to begin with.

And what about the issue of cultural plurality in our ever-shrinking world? When what is right according to my moral code wrong according to yours, how do we proceed? Do we try to find some sort of umbrella system to keep us from fighting each other? Maybe we should declare moral anarchy and simply duke it all out based on the strength of our convictions. Certainly Nietzsche would approve of that.

All that’s to say that the issue’s complicated.

I don’t know, Michael Cera gif, I don’t know…

Speaking for myself, it is nice to see some kind of conviction, even if I don’t agree with the cause at hand. There’s a case to be made for apathy being the pinnacle of all evil. In a world where the greatest battles the average person (or rather, Westerner) faces are over such petty, empty things as getting a dinner order right or having to wait in line, seeing any kind of drive makes for a nice change. As with so much in this past year, it might not be great, but it’s a start.

Manly Culture

Even if you haven’t recognized it for what it is, chances are, you’ve seen elements of it. The resurgence of beards, comments on period piece clips like “Why don’t we wear hats anymore?” or “Dang- they knew how to dress back then.” Or perhaps you’ve stumbled across The Art of Manliness or are (like me) a faithful apostle of Ron Swanson.

Now whether you’re aware of it or not, there is a growing culture based around this general perspective of “manliness” that supposedly existed from 5,000 BC to 1974 AD. The resurgence in the popularity of the beard, the wave of internet memes centered around being “classy,” our love affair with period pieces- all of this compounded has created the beginnings of a whole new subculture.

Don’t believe me? Just take a look at some of our favorite TV characters.

Don “F***-You, Liver!” Draper

Jack “Even Ayn Rand Thinks I’m Egotistical” Donaghy

Rick “Bad Decisions” Grimes

Walter “Tied with Draper for Making People Love Fedoras” White

Barney “Legen- wait for it… -DARY!” Stinson

Cullen “I Will Punch You For No Particular Reason” Bohannon

Comedy, Drama, Action/Horror, Westerns- this is a pretty broad range, and we’ve got the same strong, dour antihero type in all of them. Men who remind us of our fathers and grandfathers. Tough as nails bastards who came to this country with only a dollar in their pockets- who took a break from their honest 8 to 8 jobs of hitting metal with other pieces of metal to kill Nazis and look dapper doing it.

So what’s this culture all about? As with any group, we can talk about the superfluous or cosmetic elements- in the case of the “manly” group, handshake etiquette, strait-razor whetting, and driving stick- but to really understand ’em, we’re going to need to look at the underlying values in play here.

Independence:

What do all the men shown above have in common? A degree of independence. They’re DIY guys. Men who aren’t reliant on the help or charity of others- in short, dudes who can take care of themselves in most any situation, from car repair to providing for the family to killing the undead. And on that note…

Initiative:

These are all men who don’t allow themselves to be victims. They’re proactive moment-seizing leaders who don’t wait idly by for someone to step up. Good or bad, they’re leading the way- and speaking of bad…

Stoic:

These are guys who tend to lend credence to the stereotype of the unspeaking, unfeeling male. At best, the strong, silent type- at worse, the uncommunicative lout. One way or another, they don’t let the situation get the better of them. That’d be undignified, and if there’s one thing that they’re about, it’s…

Dignity/Pride:

It’s in the way they dress, the way they speak, the way they expected to be treated. A kind of code that prohibits some things and makes others compulsory. You can’t hold your head high, then what’s the point in having one?

Moral Ambiguity:

These men are all, to varying degrees, antiheroes. Guys with their own agendas and a certain degree of moral ambiguity that keeps you on your toes. There’s a level of egotism, self-centeredness, and disregard for others that makes them pretty good at what they do, but what they do not all that good- certainly they don’t fit the traditional mold of the selfless, self-sacrificial hero.

Wealth:

And while it’s not true for all of them, money tends to be a major element of their stories. A drive to be successful, prosperous, and (again) independent. It’s the age-old dream of being your own boss.

So what does all of this boil down to?

Power.

It’s about power. These guys represent everything we, as a generation, aren’t. Independent, wealthy, self-assured, proud. Does that sound like us? Not at all. We’re the casual dressed, globally conscious masses struggling to make it by, and taking whatever miserable, degrading soulless job we can find. We’re not strong like these glamorized images of our grandparents are (having conveniently erased the racism, bigotry, and misogyny).

But we want to be.

And so begins the perpetual motion machine of life-imitating-art and art-imitating-life. Epic Meal Time, Memes, Period Pieces- the list goes on.

So is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Well, there are good and bad elements to every culture (some more bad than good, and vice versa), but let’s list out the positives and negatives.

The positives have been wrapped in bacon

Positive:

  • We can stand to toughen up a bit a lot as a generation. We don’t need to be bending horseshoes with our teeth, but some basic survival skills and a thicker skin when it comes to discomfort and hardship would be nice (battery running out on your phone doesn’t count as suffering).
  • In these tough economic times, be able to do basic repairs to your house and car aren’t just good- they’re necessary. Same goes for any of the thrifty elements of the culture.
  • Even if we don’t have it quite yet, demanding a certain level of dignity in our work and our day to day lives isn’t just good for you as an individual- it improves society on the whole.
  • While we probably shouldn’t worship the fedora or declare the suit to be the only appropriate clothing for a man over the age of twelve, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know how to dress ourselves, or conduct ourselves well in any given situation.

Negatives:

  • The glorification of the past can, as I jokingly mentioned above, lead to the uglier elements of it being glossed over. We hail our grandfathers as being great men, forgetting how easy it is to make a name for yourself when none of the good or prestigious jobs can be given to equally qualified women or non-white men.
  • The culture really doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for women at all, other than the kitchen. This is not to say that all adherents of the culture see it this way, but when you’re trying to espouse 1950s society, that includes 50s traditional gender roles as well.
  • It can’t be denied that there’s a strong conservative appeal in this culture, as well as hints of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. Glorifying wealth and success, especially when coupled with a “do whatever you need to do” mentality, can lead to the twisted perspective that poor people are poor because they are lazy.
  • This culture, despite the intentions of its adherents, does give a home for sexism. The uglier elements of the masculinity movement, those who view women as belonging in the home and nowhere else will doubtlessly find it a lot easier to fly under the radar in a culture that’s utterly dominated by males.

So what’s the final verdict?


“Manly” culture doesn’t appear to be either helpful or harmful- at least, not yet. The underlying issue being power, it’s going to be faced with the task of walking the thin line between empowerment and megalomania. So long as self-control is kept in mind, they oughta be fine.

Be sure to look for next week’s installment: “Science” Culture.

Batman: The Dark Knight Re-Cast

Before we begin, I want to make something clear: I have not seen The Dark Knight Rises. I can’t speak to the actors or the story or Nolan’s heretical-yet-genius take on either. I am further not saying that the actors in the trilogy didn’t do a good job- they were great, however this is Culture War Reporters, and with Batman (and the whole DC Universe) being so popular right now, and with Nolan leaving for other projects, we really can’t help but speculate if Batman were to be re-done, who would be the best fit for the characters?

Bruce Wayne/Batman:

Actor: Michael Fassbender

Why We Want Him: We here at CWR aren’t the first (by a long shot) to speculate on Fassbender for the caped crusader. Simple fact of the matter is, the Irish-German actor has both proven to have the suave poise needed for Bruce Wayne (see his roles in Inglorious Basterds or X-Men: First Class) and the brutish physicality needed for Batman (see his roles in Hunger or 300). Beyond all that, the man has got the strong, square-jaw typically more associated with Batman, which while not required for a good Batman (just look at Bale) is still a plus.

Cons: I’ve never actually heard him do an American accent, so I am gambling a bit here.

Alfred Pennyworth:

Actor: John Cleese

Why We Want Him: Because he is John ****ing Cleese, one of the funniest men to have ever ministry-of-silly-walked the earth. While Michael Cane did a great job as Alfred, like Fassbender, Cleese simply looks more like the classic depiction of the Wayne’s stalwart servant.

Cons: Standing at 6’5″, Cleese is bound to dwarf everyone else on scene with him.

Dick Grayson/Robin/Night Wing:

Actor: Jensen Ackles

Why We Want Him: Obviously, this isn’t the same Robin that wears a bright yellow cape and red outfit, because, you know, who needs stealth? Ackles, simply put, has the height and build to serve as a believable counterpart to Fassbender, as well as the acting chops to match the devil-may-care personality Nightwing is usually portrayed as having.

Cons: When I was drafting this list, I told myself that I wouldn’t use anyone who had already been in a Batman movie, and as Ackles did the voice for Jason Todd/Robin in Batman: Under the Red Hood (which is a surprisingly good movie), I am sorta cheating here.

Selina Kyle/Catwoman:

Actress: Olivia Wilde

Why We Want Her: Let there be no mistake- Catwoman is no easy character to play, and many a fine actress has attempted to take on the role, only to get scratched. I won’t say that I think Wilde is at long last the one who will nail it, but rather, if I was a gambling man (which I am), my money would be on her.

Cons: Like I said, it’s a gamble with any actress- runners up would be Noomi Rapace, Zoe Saldana, or the reanimated body of Eartha Kitt. Another major point would be that Wilde, to the best of my knowledge hasn’t (to my knowledge) been in any major action roles.

The Joker:

Actor: David Tennant

Why We Want Him: Not only does Tennant look the part, but on nerd-credit alone makes for a valuable addition to the movie. We’re talking about the zaniest Doctor Who and a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. In short, we have an actor good enough to do Shakespeare, who already has a history of playing semi-psyhcotic characters, who has a rabidly loyal fan following, and who has the perfect facial features for a classic Joker.

Cons: Tennant is just slightly taller than Fassbender, which while certainly making for a scary Joker, might be a bit much. Vincent Cassel might make for a decent alternative, only I’m not sure he can do an American accent.

Commissioner Jim Gordon:

Actor: Byran Cranston

Why We Want Him:
It was Evan, actually, who suggested Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad) for the role of Commissioner Gordon, and while I would’ve initially cited Stacey Keach as the logical choice, Cranston, while not quite as heavyset as your classic Jim Gordon, is one powerhouse of an actor (seriously, go watch Breaking Bad).

Cons: Let’s face it, Cranston, as good as he is, does look a little like Gary Oldman’s Commissioner, and there’s a decent chance that you’d have that constantly gnawing at the back of your mind while you watched the movie.

Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle:

Actress: Emma Stone

Why We Want Her:
Emma Stone is already established as a good actress (see The Help or Superbad), and unlike Wilde, has had a bit of action experience in Zombieland, and if rumors are correct, is going to be doing some action in an upcoming film called “Gangster Squad“.

Cons:
Barring her role in Zombieland action roles, I don’t know of any other action roles Stone has had, which for playing Batgirl is obviously an issue, though that could be avoided by simply skipping ahead to Oracle. Plus she just played Gwen Stacey in The Amazing Spider-Man. Felicia Day would make a decent runner-up.

Edward Nigma/The Riddler:

Actor: Neil Patrick Harris

Why We Want Him: Look at him. Look at him! That is Neil Patrick Harris, and he is amazing. Look up the word “Awesome” in the dictionary. Do you see a picture of him? No, because that’s how awesome NPH is- if they put a picture of him in the dictionary nobody would ever read anything but the “Awesome” definition all the time. This guy would make a- no, the– perfect Riddler.

Cons: There are no cons- how dare you even read this! Though if NPH was too busy being awesome to play the Riddler, Steve Buscemi would be a nice backup.

Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot/The Penguin:

Actor: Patton Oswalt

Why We Want Him: Besides his short stature and general pudginess, comedian Patton Oswalt is a huge comic book fan, and offering him the role of the Penguin seems only right and natural.

Cons: Other than his voice acting, I don’t believe I’ve actually seen Oswalt in any films, and in off-chance his live action work isn’t up to par, there’s always Tobie Jones.

Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy:

Actress: Bryce Dallas Howard

Why We Want Her: Howard can already do some decently evil characters (see her role in The Help), and on top her general acting abilities already looks the part of the deranged eco-terrorist, Poison Ivy.

Cons: Yet again, we’re faced with the issue of a lack of any action roles to serve as evidence that Howard would do well here. Plus she was apparently in one of the Twilight movies, which is the general moral equivalent of clubbing a baby seal to death using another baby seal.

Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow:

Actor: Kevin Bacon

Why We Want Him: If you’ve ever seen the film The Hollow Man, you really wouldn’t need to ask.

Cons: The man is getting on in years, and his incarnation of the Scarecrow would probably more of an intellectual and physical antagonist.

Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze:

Actor: Hugh Laurie
Why We Want Him:
I had some difficulty trying to figure out who would make a really good Mr. Freeze (Jim Rash was my first reaction). Evan suggested Hugh Laurie, and after some consideration, I guess I can see it- it’d be neat to see Laurie in the role of the villain, at the very least.

Cons: None. The back story of Victor Fries is so touching that not even Arnold Schwarzenegger could butcher the moment they revealed it back in Batman & Robin.

Dr. Harleen Francis Quinzel/Harley Quinn:

Actress: Kristen Bell

Why We Want Her: I wasn’t aware of this, but apparently there’s this push among Bell’s fans (you might remember her from Heroes, just before the series started to tank) for her to play Harley Quinn. Hey- give the people what they want.

Cons: Seeing as how Bell has already had some experience playing a super-villain, there’s really not a whole lot negative to say here.

Bane:

Actor: Jason Momoa

Why We Want Him: Look, I haven’t seen Nolan’s Bane, so I can’t make any comparison there, and with regards to the character in general, despite the whole “Count of Monte Cristo on Steroids” backstory, I’ve only ever seen Bane portrayed as a thug juiced-up on venom. Regardless of which way you’d want to take the character in a reboot, the man for the job is Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian, HBO’s Game of Thrones). The man is a freaking beast.

Cons: I’ve seen Momoa in Conan and Thrones, where he’s got a clear physical presence, but I really can’t say if he could hit the intellectual side, and really be Moriarty to Bruce Wayne’s Holmes.

Homeless Guys 1 and 2:

Cameos: Frank Miller and Alan Moore

We We Want Need Them:

As much as Miller is a raving, qausi-fascist lunatic and Moore a man who thinks he’s a wizard, it can’t be denied that both of these men have had a major impact not only on Batman, but on the world of comics- having them pass by in a seen would be, in my own opinion, a neat little salute (not the kind Miller likes, though).

Cons: There’s a strong possibility that Miller will go on a rampage when the moon wanes into a crescent, frothing at the mouth (Miller, not the moon) and swearing it’s part of an Islamic global conspiracy to destroy America. Moore will huff set paint until the voices in his head start singing in key.