After the society had celebrated the end of the century and the beginning of a new millennium, the cultural background rapidly filled with monsters and demons. Nowadays, vampires, bionic killers, scar-faced slashers appear more often on TV, attracting a myriad of devoted fans. The popularity of certain monsters in the society can also tell about the psychology of people in a definite period of time. Generally, monsters reflect the main fears of the society caused by historical, economic or cultural woes. That is why they are frequently described as creatures capable of surviving atomic bombs or human avengers. The monster chosen for the paper is Walter White, the protagonist of the film Breaking Bed. Walter White is a human by his nature. Nevertheless, during the serial, he transforms from a person into a “monster.” The considerable changes in White’s character and his evolution from a teacher into a drug dealer can be traced through evaluating his behavior in various life-changing situations.
The first time the character of White appears on the screen as a miserable man. The viewers do not have a choice except feeling sympathy for him. Vince Gilligan, the director of the film, informs viewers that Mr. White is a schoolteacher who suffers from cancer and a midlife crisis. Humiliated and not understood by his students and family, Walter White makes a daring decision to realize his potential in another field. He realizes that he is incurably ill, and, presumably, this fact catalyzes his joining a criminal world. From the moment of the crucial decision, viewers trace White’s “success” when he chooses to cook a crystal amphetamine. Transformation of Walter White is often referred to as a transformation from a protagonist to an antagonist. Ironically, once the audience estimates Walter’s character to be worth respect, it starts liking him, not paying attention to what he is doing. The viewers enjoy watching him being rewarded for retailing drugs. Moreover, the audience is bound to justify his miserable actions, such as cooking meth, manipulating his student, lying to his family and even killing people. At this stage of transformation, according to White, he does everything for the sake of his family. From this point, we understand that he has not entirely transformed into a malicious and brutal “monster” yet.
The next stage of White’s metamorphosis involves his physical change. He shaves his head and behaves as a person with whom nobody should argue. The wrinkles on his forehead become more obvious and make him look more angry and serious. Moreover, his new look appeals to him, and he adjusts to his brutal new look by doing rude things. White beats his wife and quarrels with his business partner. At this stage, he is offered the next life-changing decision. When White meets his enemy Krazy-8, he starts transforming from a protagonist to an antagonist or antihero. The scene when White contemplates whether to kill or to release the Krazy-8, he makes a decision to brutally murder the Krazy-8. However, the audience is still assured that it is done for self-defense and for the safety of his family. Similarly to the previous stage, White says that all he does is for the sake of his family. Therefore, killing becomes an acceptable deed for Walter.
With the development of the story, the viewers are exposed to the fact that White is not morally clear anymore. He penetrates deeper in the criminal world. When he witnessed the death of his son’s girlfriend, Jane, he decides to let her die, considering her to be a threat to his money and business. This time the audience has strong reservations about his doing everything for the family. This scene can be considered as a breaking point of the serial. Jane becomes the first “not guilty” victim that Walter kills for his benefit. Tracing Walter’s behavior from the first season till the forth one, it becomes obvious that all changes happened to him not because of his social surroundings but because of his consciousness as “He changed himself. At some point, he decided to become bad…”.
From this moment and till the end of the story, Walter’s behaves as an arrogant, brutal and cruel person, and his transformation is becoming more vivid and has no excuse. After poisoning a child with meth, he can no longer be trusted. He is a completely different man than the one the audience saw at the beginning of the film. The metamorphosis is related not only to his behavior; it also concerns his physical appearance. Thus, Walter now looks like a Scarface figure. The physical change explicitly shows the audience that the changes which happened to Walter White are inevitable and unalterable.
Appearance of Heisenberg
After physical transformation, Walter White changes his name into Heisenberg, which makes him a completely different person than the one shown in the first series (“The 8 Stages”). Heisenberg is a brutal, immoral, malicious killer and drug dealer, who does not care about people’s feelings and does not appreciate other’s lives. The more Walter enjoys being Heisenberg, the more it diverts viewers’ affection from his character since Heisenberg is a reflection of an antagonist, a second Gus.
A noticeable thing that identifies the continual rise of Walter’s inner brutality is death. Each time somebody from his surrounding dies, he obtains power. When Walter joined the criminal world, his main wish was to obtain recognition as he feels he deserves it. Heisenberg becomes famous and appreciated, which is what Walter could never expect to gain. The blue crystal methylamine made by Heisenberg is spread everywhere. After learning that Pickman cooks meth secretly from him, Walter becomes furious. He understands that Gus is a problem for him and kills him. Moreover, when his brother-in-law dies, Heisenberg tries to show the grief. However, the attentive viewer can notice anger hidden under the disguise of sorrow.
After killing the main enemy, Heisenberg has completely transformed into a brutal murderer, and nothing is left from the White the viewer sees at the beginning of the film. Sometimes he sounds nice, but it is a part of his game. White continues using people. The situation in a desert, when Heisenberg confronts a man who wants to buy all the methylamine, clearly shows how deadly and dark he has become. Moreover, the duality of White decreases to the end of the film. Consequently, the person who always showed his affection for the family turns into a malicious drug dealer, a real monster in a human body.
Nowadays, the figure of Walter White and his evolution continues to grip views’ attention. The way he evolves from a protagonist to an antihero is not only a good scheme for filmmaking, but also a subject of a psychological dispute. However, evaluation of Walter White as a good or bad individual depends on the viewer’s personal moral judgments.
The growing interest to the “monstrous” ego of Walter White is presumably connected with the excuse he provides for his immoral actions. Family issues have always been extremely important from a psychological perspective. Thus, skillful manipulation of the family matters makes the figure of White more controversial. The audience is made believe that he compromises his moral to protect the family. Eventually, doing bad things for protecting family seems to be acceptable. However, having a chance to leave cooking meth, he decides not to step back and continues dealing drugs. The scene on a parking lot, when he yells “Stay out of my territory” is a vivid example of his performing for himself.
At the end of the serial, Heisenberg finds himself in the woods somewhere in New Hampshire. He loses everything, and the only thing he has now is recollections of his fabulous life, which is now far behind. Primarily, Walter was a miserable man with a messy appearance. He had nothing except his family and students. When Walter enters a criminal world, he turns into a murder Heisenberg. Many of his dreams come true. However, he loses something more valuable than all the money he could earn. Walter uses Heidelberg to obtain power. Having assumed it, he loses everything and hopes for an absolute redemption before his death.
In conclusion, the figure of Walter White continues attracting viewer’s attention. The serial allows tracing the evolution from a teacher of chemistry into a methylamine dealer. At the first season viewers show sympathy for Walter’s miserable life. While he is changing into Heisenberg, the audience waits for punishment for his bad actions. Walter White cannot be called a monster from the beginning. However, at the end of the last season, he acknowledges that he “is not in danger, he is a danger by himself”. The viewers enjoy the process of Walter’s transformation. Still, the decision to consider him a monster or a criminal depends on personal moral beliefs.