The Goal Is Money: Breaking Bad

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In Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad, the main character Walter White was placed on an impeccable journey through the last several years of his life. Walter’s character had developed remarkably, going from a very average high school chemistry teacher to New Mexico’s top methamphetamine cook. Throughout the show, Walter demonstrates his true identity through interactions between various characters using course concepts such as self-concept and self-esteem, material self, and failure to be mindful of one’s self. Walter was filled with greed, deception, and the hunger for power making the steps that lead to Walters’s success destructive in many aspects.

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Self-concept is how one labels and describes themselves. “Who you are is also reflected in the attitudes, beliefs, and values that you hold”. Walter White wanted the audience, the people involved in his life, and at many moments himself to believe he was a decent man who was pushed by unfortunate circumstances to do terrible acts, but this notion was mere deceit. As Walter’s journey continues through the methamphetamine (meth) business, his values and beliefs change in certain aspects “Our Concept of self can and does change, depending on out circumstances and influences”. Walter still cares deeply about his family and will go to extreme measures to make sure they are provided for and are kept safe from people involved in the drug business. For example, the reason why Walter becomes a meth cook is to provide enough money for his family to live off once he is gone due to his lung cancer. Walter believes by cooking meth he is being a good father and husband because he can now provide more money for his family, but Walter fails to see is how many lives he is destroying by cooking his meth. Many people die including rival drug dealers and innocent children because Walter continues to push his product onto the street. However, as the show progresses, Walt starts to care less about his family and starts to care more about feeding his ego. Prior to the start of Walter cooking meth, his self-esteem was low, he felt humiliated because he was not able to fund his cancer treatment while supporting his family, along with a deep feeling of jealousy for Elliot and Gretchen’s success, Walters’s former business partners. It was once Walter becomes associated with cooking meth amongst other crimes, and becoming the infamous Heisenberg, he finally has a sense of fulfillment “The thinking of some professional evaluators and counselors is that criminal behavior represents a desperate attempt to compensate for this prevailing sense of inadequacy”. During Season 2 Episode 12 Phoenix, Walter is faced with a choice; either to watch the birth of his daughter or make the largest business transaction of his life. This particular episode stands out because it demonstrates how Walter’s values change. Walter is extremely anxious and excited about this business transaction he was offered, but when Skyler, Walter’s wife, calls saying the baby is on its way, Walter chooses to miss the birth of his child. Money and crime increase Walters’s self-esteem, and as he becomes more powerful and invested into the drug business, some people look up to him while others fear him which allows Walter to figure out who he is as a person.

In addition, the premise of Breaking Bad is for Walter to make enough money to leave his family once he is gone. Walter does the math in his head coming up with the number $737,000. This would be enough money for Walter to leave his family and leave the drug business altogether. Walter will go out of his reach to obtain that number, as it was mentioned before, he misses the birth of his daughter to get a bag of cash in exchange for his meth. As the show progresses, Walter has reached that number may time and is still desperate to make more money. Although Walter has enough money to live a very nice life, he is not able to buy physical objects that reflect his material self. Walter learns his lesson after buying a $300 bottle of champagne and a brand-new Dodge Challenger for his son, that he must keep up his appearances considering no one, besides Skyler, knows the truth about the amount of money Walter earns. That being said, money becomes a tangible asset of its own and drives Walter to protect it at all costs. Money also fulfills Walters’s ego, the more he makes the more powerful he feels, and that pushes him to continue cooking meth. Even after the death of Gus Fring, Walters’s former drug boss, Walter seeks the help of a Neo-Nazi group to distribute his meth. Walter also became very greedy as to what his money is being used for besides the good of his family. For example, Walter is skeptical of paying for Hank’s medical bills because they are expensive and that meant losing money. Also, Jessie Pinkman, Walter’s former cooking partner, lures him into a trap set up by the DEA by taking a picture of Walters’s money that is buried in the desert and saying “I’m burning 10 grand a minute ‘till you get here starting right now” putting Walter into a complete panic as he races down the highways trying to save his money. However, Phycology Today states that as “the income increases, its added contribution to life’s satisfaction becomes smaller”, the idea of making more money adds value to Walters’s life but he is never truly happy with the amount he has.

Finally, Walter lacks mindfulness, he is not consciously thinking about what he is doing throughout the show and how this affects others. The main thought in Walters’s mind is the need to make money for his family, he fails to see how his actions cancel out the money he has made. For example, near the end of the final season Skyler and Walter Junior, Walters’s son, want nothing to do with the money or Walter himself because he was not aware of how his criminal actions affected his family. All of Walters’s actions including, cooking meth, murder, and even his lying habits are now all second nature to him. Walter’s objective self-awareness comes and goes throughout the show, during the heat of the moment, he lacks the ability to think and therefore makes poor decisions “individuals with low emotional intelligence levels are more prone to risky behavior”, Walter allows his emotions to control his actions as well. For example, Walter killed Mike, a former business associate, because Mike bruised Walters’s ego and pride blaming him for all the disasters that occurred since he became associated with Gus. Lacking self-awareness, Walter snaps and shoots mike in a fit of rage. As soon as he pulls the trigger, Walter realized that he had made a mistake. Walters’s environment and relationships with the individuals around him cause him to lack mindfulness which in addition changes his concept of self.

As the show progresses, Walters’s circumstances change drastically within each season. Walter completely transforms from a loving father and husband to an egotistic monster who will stop at nothing to gain more power. Walter has destroyed many lives and relationships all for one goal, money. Once again Walter reveals his true identity through his interactions between various characters on the show by demonstrating his change is self-concept and self-esteem, value for material self, and lack of mindfulness.  

29 April 2022

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