November 1, 2012

Breaking Bad in a Real World. ~ Vera Snow

What’s with all the dark T.V. these days?

Redemption, love and light are so far off the radar that maybe our culture isn’t striving for something more than entertainment these days. It’s as if these shows are vehicles for addressing places within ourselves where most of us refuse to go, yet need to go in order to see the whole picture. I wonder, however, how far down the rabbit hole we must travel until we find what we’re looking for?

It seems like eternity since the days of The Cosby Show. All things designer, the 80’s were all about climbing the corporate ladder, commuting to the Mac Mansions in the suburbs and having it all. Today, not so much. So if art truly can imitate life, I guess today’s line-up of downer shows is more or less right on.

For instance, AMC’s Breaking Bad. Here’s a middle-aged guy whose road to hell is truly paved with good intentions: An overqualified high school chemistry teacher struck with aggressive lung cancer, raising a teenager with special needs and expecting a baby. He can’t pay his rising medical bills and doesn’t want to leave his family destitute upon his demise, so he turns to meth production and distribution for salvation. A ridiculous premise at first glance but uncomfortable to watch because it hits a nerve—a too close to home nerve.

Today’s world is far from the Huckstable’s brownstone in New York City, but closer to the tornado that uproots Dorothy from all that she knows to be true. Global cultures are infiltrating, blending, molding and creating a hot mess. Of course, as much cohesion as is going on, there is much repelling as well, a push-pull creating ongoing conflict and instability. Like any transformation, things need to burn before the new can flourish and take shape. A kind of chemical reaction, our psyches are striving to find the new formula to settle into our new normal.

So why are all these shows so attractive when you would think we would rather escape to T.V. for rest and relaxation?

Because I believe something else is going on too. The light we knew in the 80’s was sanitized and filled with cheer. It had very little to do with reality and yet it seemed to work. Living the dream was all about appearances and making one’s life fit a particular mold. Building a life on image may not have been very meaningful or fulfilling, but at least it was safe.

Perhaps, today, “playing it safe” is no longer enough? Like all new life, the past must be willing to give up its time in the sun. The naked truth must be allowed to reveal its true colors. A new paradigm is coming into play as we seek a new reality in a world that is more closely connected.

Yes, more drama and a lot of discomfort will ensue in these new closely knit quarters, but with it will also come more intimacy, an understanding of one another that is more real and authentic. A deeper acceptance that what you see is not always what you get. A maturity that no longer needs to cake on the make-up for appearance sake but rather run wild and free. A coming of age that no longer protects with blinders, rather welcomes the truth hidden in the darkness. At least that is what I hope is going on.

Then again, going back to the 80’s no longer seems possible, or even appealing, in spite of all the turmoil today. What do you think?

Vera Snow finds the mystical in just about everything but is particularly mindful of it when it comes to pop-culture. Visit www.verasnow.com to learn more.




Anne Clendening

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