October 18, 2013

Why I Wish I Had Watched Breaking Bad. ~ Hosanna Rasmussen

There’s something uniquely beautiful about thousands of individuals weeping or laughing together over something fictitious.

As viewers or listeners of such art, creativity and role-playing, we feel no objection to our emotions and reactions and beyond that, we want to share them and share them we do.

In unison, the audience applauds.

In unison, the audience weeps.

And now, with the wave of social media and continuous communication at our fingertips, that unitary audience who previously would hash out scenarios and characters over coffee or during an office break, share those sentiments instantaneously. And so, when, let’s say, a character dies or the unthinkable happens, the whole world swoons and the rest of us hear of it. We catch the ripples from the waves.

We listen and we watch and sometimes, dammit, we wish we were a part of that monumental audience.

I knew Breaking Bad was important to our society the more and more I heard of it. It would drift, elusively almost, through my social networking connections and through snatches of overheard conversation, but I knew I would not have real access to it except by sitting down and watching this Breaking Bad.

I watched the first episode roughly two weeks ago, and felt that snag of a hook weaving through my mind. What happens next? Who is this teacher guy? I was hooked, but it was almost too late, because I had made it too late. I didn’t watch the second episode, or the third, or the fourth and this week marked the final episode:

It. Is. Finished.

And the world swooned and the world shared and the world commented and I was not a part of it (except for now, from an emotionally uninvolved distance.)

Slipping back into history, we meet Shakespearian drama: everyone in a tight bowl, laughing and weeping together, truly experiencing and sharing the creative act ‘in the moment’. Jump forward to television: I wasn’t around during its rise to prowess, but I can imagine families seated around their black-and-white television sets soaking in their rays.

Growing up, my family had a simple, very similar television. VHS, no channels. None of that ‘cable’ that the other kids had. If we went to our grandparents’ house on an early Saturday morning, we’d sneak into the extra bedroom and watch the infamous cartoons we heard so much about at school, but usually the word ‘cartoons’ meant Tom & Jerry reruns or an hour of Charlie Chaplin. Yet we loved our simple television so much that we actually called our living room ‘The T.V. Room’. I can’t think of any other appliance that was given its own room in its honor: The Oven Room, The Microwave Room, The Radio Room?

Several years passed and we continued our usual playing-outside-building-treehouses childhood when my father explained to us that we now had channels. TWO channels. Two channels! As the years increased so did our channels, until my parents succumbed and got a channel plan, even though I still do not understand the various plans that exist or the various modes of acquiring such channels.

By the time the channels were added to our family, I had moved out and I haven’t owned a television since.

Perhaps my childhood morals (“Don’t watch a movie; it’s summer!” or “Don’t watch a movie; play in the snow!”) are to blame for my lack of desire to actually buy a television. Perhaps it also has to do with the fact that I’m usually moving between apartments and I’d really rather not fit another breakable thing into my also breakable car.

And so, I observe trends and the beloved of the television from afar: from my computer screen, from overhearing conversations, from advertisements.

When I first watched Breaking Bad, I wanted to be a part of its audience. With its end, I wanted to be a part of its audience, its true audience. Because for some reason, there is something so uniquely special about ‘growing up’ with a show or movie: it becomes nostalgic. It becomes entwined within our memories. You’re able to connect over these shows.

Why is that?

I’d like to think it goes deeper than merely being popular or ‘being in the know’. It’s about falling in love with the characters and hating the guts of other characters and knowing them all over an extended period of time. These screened ‘characters’ reflect society, and sometimes, they reflect us. As the entertained, we love that! Regardless of the medium—novel, play, theatre, song—we get hooked and we revel in it. If one watches a show past its prime, it certainly still can mean the same things and have significant influences, yet there is something unique about growing up with that show (watching its development).

With social media and networking and cell phones, it’s almost as if we’ve taken the television out of the living room and into the front porch of our lives: we’re back to experiencing it ‘in the moment’ that the art is shared. Across continents and across states, we can share our knee-jerk reactions to scenes or yammer on about love affairs, and furthermore, we can draw conclusions from the show or movie and we can bounce what we see onto what we are.

Maybe I will spend this winter watching Breaking Bad, to see what the hype is about. Because ‘what the hype is about’ is what we are about: what we are interested in and what we are intrigued by and what we have created and to me, that matters.

(Honestly, I just really want to know what happens).


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Assist Ed: Sanja Cloete-Jones/Ed: Sara Crolick

{Breaking Bad Screening Lab in Hollywood Image from Flickr by Pop Culture Geek}


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