Ann Coulter, using her massive microphone, writes in her national column that Breaking Bad is, “the most Christian Hollywood production since Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ ” Yes, forget about Facing the Giants or Courageous, or The Nativity. A show about a school teacher turned meth dealer is the most Christian thing produced in nine years. And what does she base this on? It’s things like this:
Perfectly rationally, he concludes: “I learned it in rehab. It’s all about accepting who you really are. I accept who I am. … I’m the bad guy.” He returns to cooking meth. Mayhem, murder and disaster ensue.
There’s only one thing in the world that ever could have allowed Jesse to forgive himself: The understanding that God sent his only son to die for Jesse’s sins, no matter how abominable. To not forgive himself after that would be an insult to God, dismissing what Jesus did on the cross as not such a big deal.
Had the character Jesse actually come to Christ, that would have been one thing. But actually, Coulter’s thought was that the only hope for a character would have been to turn to Christ, and there are hundreds of movies and TV shows we could say that of. It’s a case of imposing a Christian moral were none exists or was intended. She uses other things such as the fact that Walter suffers consequences of sin, even though the show never calls it that and that the main character’s DEA brother-in-law turned out to be a brave and noble character.
There is something to be said for the story showing the decline of man and fall from one sin to the next. Paul Asay at Plugged In says much the same thing in a far more subdued post, but if that’s what it takes to be a Christian film than most crime films of the 1940s were “Christian movies.”
However, in a materialistic culture, the show sends a, to put it kindly, mixed message. One fan of the show wrote in the comment’s of Asay’s post:
If I had a concern about BB pandering a bad lesson, however accidentally or intentionally, it was how enticing those piles of money can look. Walt takes terrible risk and does terrible things, but for much of the show, he has gained literally millions and millions of dollars for it. However, the last several episodes of the final season eased my concern a bit there, as they continued to close the loop on their multi-faceted morality tale.
I had a Catholic friend on Facebook who decided to start watching the series in marathon style to get caught up, so he’d have context for the finale. He stopped watching the series early in Season 2 and was told by friends who were fans to keep watching all the way through to the last few episodes of Season 5 and then the moral would appear.
Any story that takes more than five years to get to the moral doesn’t do a good job communicating its moral. People who saw the rise of the main character’s empire are more likely to conclude he messed up as a matter of operations and made a stupid mistake, not that he made the first wrong moral step when he started cooking meth.
But why the exultation of the show as some sort of Christian parable Perhaps, the show is a guilty pleasure for some people, just like The Godfather or the Sopranos are. Yet, we don’t want to actually feel guilty about our guilty pleasures, so we get Ann Coulter concocting some hooey turning it into some clever Christian story that we all see when no one associated with the story had any intent or notion of it.
In reality, what Breaking Bad’s likely effect is to be corrosive to society as a whole in a way that mobster films really aren’t. The big difference between Breaking Bad and say The Godfather is that your average joe can’t just go out and become head of a crime family. He can set up his own meth house and hope to rake in the greenback.
Is it a Christian parable? Let’s say wait ten years and see how many people come to Christ as a result of watching Breaking Bad v. how many set up their own meth houses.
And as for entertainment as a whole, networks will take the message and promote more stories that are dark and exploitative, with anti-heroes that will entertain as our culture coarsens. Ultimately, fans of the show who gave it record-setting ratings will bare some part of the responsibility for the next Breaking Bad show as we continue our downward spiral of more amoral characters who promote anti-social behavior. In essence, being a fan of the show was casting a vote for the type of culture we want, and the type of entertainment we wish to see promoted.
To be clear, I think there are places for Christian writers and artists to explore darker themes in a redemptive way, but Breaking Bad isn’t an example of this.
And Coulter’s attempt to transform this into a “Christian tale” seems more attempt to rationalize making the show a gigantic hit sure to be emulated, which were told was the start of Walter’s road to ruin. Hopefully, our culture has a better end than Walter.