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Transcript of Breaking Bad
Gender Roles in Viewers'
Experiences of Breaking Bad Progressive Journalism (Bloggers) "Walt's solution to his impending death is individualist, governed by a vision of masculinity." - David Corcoran The Study Relevance of sexism and gender dynamics to viewers Findings variety of interpretations "is changing what we expect from television." "is one of the greatest shows in recent decades." "has successfully elevated the medium of television." Breaking Bad... "When we describe these shows as being about the crisis of American masculinity...people of color are nearly absent...and the end result is to exclude non-white men from the struggle towards and with masculinity..." - Abigail Naussbaum "Skylar White is one of many TV wives who fans turn on rather than visiting moral judgement on the anti-hero men themselves." - Alyssa Rosenberg qualitative approach 3 focus groups of 2-4 people groups informed by gender and political affiliation conflicting responses to the show's narrative is conditioned by gender and political persuasion; the determining factor placing participants in either the dominant or negotiated/oppositional camp relevant moments of meaning 1. relevancy of masculinity
2.relevancy of a male/female binary Relevancy of Masculinity Exposure to Discourse Both groups of self-identified "liberals" found Walter's actions to be grounded in traditional masculine ideals, describing what they saw by using terms like: "history of emasculation" "reassertion of the patriarch" "displays of dominance" "hetero normative" None of this language was present in the discussion group of conservative white males. Instead what they focused on was Walter's moral predicament. i.e. "...he has difficult decisions to make to do the right thing."
"Walter is trying to provide his family with a good life, especially since his wife is pregnant, that's why he has to make drugs...to make sure they're taken care of." Relevancy of a Male/Female Binary Interpretive differences between male and female viewers Self-identified liberal females dedicated a large part of their discussion to the problematic presentation of the only major female character. "I think the show is putting women in a more passive position." "[The show] definitely reinforces traditional normative gender dynamics." Self-identified liberal males only really took up issues of gender imbalance when prompted by the interviewer. In the self-identified conservative white male group there was no mention of gender imbalance except to reproduce Alyssa Rosenberg's observations about fans turning on the anti-heroes' wives. "Skylar just gets annoying and really naggy as the show goes on...I mean it makes sense because Walter starts killing people, but if she supported him they could 'get out' together, instead of fighting." "Ya I guess the show kind of paints the wife in a negative light, but that's because you see everything through Walt's eyes" Analysis What insights can we gain from the different responses by women and men to Breaking Bad and what role does political affiliation play in the interpretations? Liberal spectators' observations of Walter's "assertion...then reassertion of the patriarch" (amongst other things), represents a willingness to challenge gendered ideology in the media. Conservatives ignored this reading and instead interpreted the text in the way it was intended: namely that Breaking Bad is a story of moral tribulation and 'good' vs. 'evil'. This is a dominant decoding, tending not to question the sexual ideology at work that historically positions men as the active ones in forwarding the story. Self-identified liberal women were able to contextualize the problematic nature of Breaking Bad (within a history of media) better than the men interviewed. Conclusion It's a Man's World