James Atlas admits to binge watching “Breaking Bad” and wrestles with his own ambivalence about doing so. This New York Times essay appeared during Season 5—that is, in May 2013.
- As Atlas notes, the show’s use of suspense is a key factor of his intense interest in “Breaking Bad.” What other factors does he mention? How, according to Atlas, does “Breaking Bad” “challenge the hegemony” of the literary classics to determine what is worthwhile and culturally meaningful? What evidence does he present?
- What is Atlas’ attitude toward television? What is his attitude toward his own viewing habits? Do his revelations about his own attitudes enhance his authority in this essay, or do they damage it? Why do you think so?
- Read (or re-read) Steven Johnson’s essay in Chapter 15 of your textbook. Are Johnson and Atlas making complementary arguments? Imagine how a conversation between the two might go. Do they mostly agree? Mostly disagree? Why do you think so? Point to specific passages in the two essays to support your conclusion.
- “Breaking Bad” is one of several current TV shows that depict “a world of moral ambiguity.” Select a character from another TV show or movie and write an essay describing the moral challenges they face and the morally ambiguous lives they lead. How do they balance the good and evil that coexist within them? What have you learned from this character about your own balance in the world you inhabit?