The Worst Character in Breaking Bad (And I Don’t Mean Walt)   8 comments

It’s been a LONG time since I last blogged, and I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to return to this blog, start a new one, or just quit blogging for good. Still don’t know, and while I could update you all (well, whoever is still here after all this time which, for all I know, is like twelve people) on the nightmare that has been my life during the last year (the Cliffs Notes version: illness, death, poverty, desperation, hopelessness, alienation, more death, and then still more death), I really don’t want to go into all that today.

So, on a lighter note: Breaking Bad. No, we still don’t have a TV but what are friends for, right?

I’ve been following the Breaking Bad threads on some of the mainstream feminist and progressive blogs and was once again reminded (not that I really needed a reminder) how incredibly different my perspective is from that of the predominantly middle class liberals who post and comment on these blogs. I realize people haven’t had my experiences, but I was nonetheless surprised to discover that Hank is actually a popular character. Hank the racist DEA guy who beats up suspects, violates people’s constitutional rights, and treats illegal drug users like subhuman garbage. That Hank.

I’ve been wishing for this character’s death since the first season (knowing, of course, that it wasn’t going to happen). Yeah, sure, Walt is a horrible human being, but the damage drug warriors like Hank do to people’s lives outpaces even Walt’s body count. And for all the talk about catching “kingpins,” most drug war casualties are low income people. The percentage of my friends and acquaintances who have been arrested, have done time, are doing time, or are currently on parole is staggering. And most of these cases are drug-related.

While poor folks are no more likely to use drugs than their wealthier counterparts, they are more likely to sell them. The reasons for this should be obvious. In the event that they become addicted, they are also far more likely to have to resort to petty crime (prostitution, theft, etc.) to support their habit. And whether they are using, selling, or committing non-violent crimes to support a drug habit, they are significantly more likely to go down for this stuff than someone who is at least middle class.

The Hanks of this world don’t think twice about destroying someone’s life by tossing them in the criminal (in)justice system. In fact, they laugh while they slap on the cuffs. And then, to add insult to injury, they claim that drugs–not drug laws and their enforcers–were responsible for screwing up that person’s life. See what drugs do? That guy went to prison because of drugs and now he has a criminal record and can’t get a job. With no income and no hope for the future, he’s probably going to go right back to using/dealing, at which point Hank can swoop in and put another notch on his belt.

“See what drugs do?” Hank and his fellow drug warriors exclaim. Entire communities have been decimated by this scourge! We need more funding pronto to keep drugs away from your kids! And harsher penalties to serve as a deterrent! Meanwhile the cycle keeps repeating itself and Hank and his buddies laugh and joke about the people they arrest while enjoying their generous salaries and benefits, not to mention the “perks” of the job like, you know, being able to spring family members from jail without charges being filed (which has happened at least three times on Breaking Bad), and other stuff I won’t go into here.

Then there’s the hypocrisy. Oh, don’t get me started on the hypocrisy. The recreational drug factory (home microbrewery) in Hank’s garage and his illegal Cuban cigars are a-okay, but the working class guy doing a little meth to stay awake while working double shifts in a dead-end job? Arrest his ass! (Yeah, I know Hank is DEA and the DEA generally doesn’t concern itself with arresting mere users, but Hank regularly threatens users with arrest and certainly approves of the cops throwing users in jail). And Marie’s shoplifting? According to Hank, she needs psychotherapy and lots of support and understanding and certainly no time in a jail cell. Meanwhile, a friend of mine recently served over a year for shoplifting baby formula.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see Marie locked up either, but I would like to see the same compassion and understanding extended to low income people who, quite frankly, have far more of an “excuse” for their transgressions than Marie who lives in a beautiful house surrounded by beautiful things and never has to worry about paying the bills.

For the likes of Hank, however, it’s exactly the reverse. Got a hard-luck story? Tough! Those are a dime a dozen in low income neighborhoods. And you know what those poor people are like: always making excuses, never taking responsibility. No, the people who really deserve a break are the ones who have enjoyed lives of privilege–the more, the better.

When a nice upper middle class white lady like Marie commits a crime, that’s obviously just totally out of character. A clear cry for help! On the other hand, when I was accused of working the street by two cops at the ripe old age of 13, that was because prostitution was considered to be totally *in character* for a lower class girl like me. So well-to-do people get therapy and poor people get punished. And guys like Hank think that’s the way it should be.

But the thing I probably hate most about Hank is the way he treats drug addicts like Wendy. Now, this is something that has never made sense to me. According to drug warriors like Hank, illegal drugs are EVIL BAD WRONG because they are highly addictive and getting addicted to drugs messes up people’s lives. Selling illegal drugs is not a victimless crime because they are so incredibly powerful that education is totally inadequate to protect innocent people from getting hopelessly hooked in no time at all. This is why we must spend billions of dollars in a (futile) attempt to keep these drugs off the streets.

Based on this perspective, a meth-addicted street prostitute like Wendy should be considered the innocent victim of unscrupulous drug dealers, so why is Hank treating her like she’s the scum of the earth? And if drug users like Wendy are subhuman vermin, why is Hank so determined to protect society from illegal drugs, even risking his own life to do so? Why not just legalize everything so innocent people who aren’t using drugs are no longer killed in the crossfire of rival drug gangs or robbed by junkies desperate for their next fix?

It’s highly illogical. But unfortunately very realistic. And yet many progressives like this character.

Admittedly, Hank improved somewhat after the explosion that maimed a fellow DEA agent and again after getting shot. However, he recently proved that he is still a piece of shit by trying to persuade Skylar to make a statement without her attorney present. He has no way of knowing how involved Skylar is in Walt’s operation, but he clearly doesn’t give a damn about her or her kids. All he cares about is getting Walt, no matter the cost.

Which is ironic given that TERRIBLE Walt not only won’t consider killing Hank but has actually risked his life–and the lives of his wife and kids–to protect Hank. Because Hank is family and that matters to Walt. It obviously doesn’t matter to Hank who, let’s face it, never really respected Walt. As a high school teacher, Walt just wasn’t enough of a “man’s man” to warrant respect from someone like Hank, who used to be a poster boy for toxic masculinity and has only marginally improved.

By the way, this is not a defense of Walt who has committed some truly abhorrent acts–killing Jane, raping Skylar, and poisoning Brock topping the list. And yet, if it’s going to be between Walt and the DEA/Hank, I’ve got to pull for Walt. Yep, I hate Hank and his DEA pals that much.

Finally, I’ve got to say something about Jesse. He used to be one of my favorite characters on Breaking Bad, but this season I’ve really been losing patience with him. I mean, dude had FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. Yes, some bad shit went down, but FIVE MILLION DOLLARS!!! Take that money and start a new life somewhere! If you feel you must make amends for the things you’ve done, start a foundation to affect positive change or give most of the money to poor people and/or charities. But no, dude is just sitting around feeling sorry for himself. And then he manages to get all the cash confiscated by the cops. Watching that was actually physically painful! Although I very much approved of distributing some of the money in a low income neighborhood, I sure wish he’d been smarter about it.

Let’s just say that if I had five million dollars–hell, if I had half a million dollars–my past would be my past. I would be able to put all the bad shit behind me and start fresh. I’d live in a nice but modest home with solar panels on the roof and no neighbors, and I’d dedicate my life to animal rescue, environmental protection, dismantling patriarchy, and advocating for an economic system that works for everybody, not just the privileged few.

Unfortunately it’s not unusual for people who’ve always had money to have no idea how incredibly fortunate they are. Not having to work long hours for an abusive boss who pays shit and treats you like garbage, not having to sit by helplessly as your loved ones suffer because you can’t afford veterinary/dental/medical care, not having to deliberate which bills to let go this month as the late fees keep piling up, not having to eat the same stuff day after day just because it’s cheap, not living in constant fear of homelessness because you know you’re just one bad break away from not being able to make rent, not having to always think about money, worry about money, fight about money–I could go on and on but you get the idea–oh, what I wouldn’t give for that. And Jesse just threw it all away. Damn.

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8 responses to “The Worst Character in Breaking Bad (And I Don’t Mean Walt)

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  1. Breaking Bad I think more than any show on tv is so ripe to be Deconstructed from Radical Perspective and you just did a fine piece of it. I only got hooked (no pun intended) on it just before the new season watching all the previous seasons on Netflix in about a week which is a scary amount of hours in such a short time I think I’ll wait till it’s over to put my own thoughts on it down but I have to day I agree with most everything in your post

  2. I don’t watch TV but I agree with your post entirely. And I am so sorry for your losses, whoever they have been.

  3. I was sorting my old bookmarks, when suddenly I rediscovered your blog. Must have been a year since I last saw it – the color theme on your top banner is still awesome. Looking forward to see what you been writing in my absence. Won’t bother with Breaking Bad, but I enjoyed your dissection of the show

  4. Intelligent, beautifully written, and dead on. I reaffirm what I said on twitter earlier. My beloved wife passed on at age 44 a little over a year ago from a very severe case of MS and an encephalopathy that was only spotted post-mortem (it doesn’t show up on MRI’s and she had none of the risk factors), but at least she received the best medical care available. Had I had to watch her die due to a lack of decent insurance, I’m not sure I’d be a free man right now.

    • Thanks for your kind words. I’m so sorry for the loss of your wife at such a young age. I’ve lost a lot of people I care about to drugs and crime (usually the result of poverty, despair or untreated mental health issues) as well as illness and lack of medical care, but don’t know what I’d do if I lost my partner. I think that would be the end of me. Life is hard enough when you can share the burden with someone. I used to be able to do it alone but too much has happened. I’m so tired of everything always being a major struggle. So tired of fighting. I think if I suddenly found myself alone, I’d just let go.

  5. I thought Hank was the most evil character too. A few in the last season were rotten as well, but nobody else comes close. As a child, I knew a DEA POS and Hank could have been based on him. A DEA agent lies, steals, assaults, murders, sets up, betrays, with impunity. These scumbags are above the law.

    Walt was basically good.

  6. I would hardly consider what Walt did “rape”. He got a little too rough and stopped, but he didn’t “rape”. I agree 100% about Hank and the DEA though.

  7. I totally relate and agree with your sentiments. I think people like hank the real drama queen are the real problems of the world. Walt is a terrible person, but i have always thought the same way about the way the dea on this show makes illeagal drug users out to be inhumans, that is an outrage, everyone is worth saving. You could be a Christian, if your not already.

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