For many Americans, their growing addiction to “Breaking Bad” had an interesting by-product. For those whose interest in the evolution of Walter White spurred them away from their preferred viewscreen and toward the increasingly prodigious amount of literature on the subject, it was the first time they had ever been confronted with the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche without any accompanying text or photos related to Nazi Germany. It is certainly a good thing to finally be able to strip away Nietzsche from his unfortunate and mostly unjustified cohabitation with fascism. If Walter White–unquestionably a criminal whose status as antihero borders on the majestically questionable, but still, well, at least he’s not a Nazi–could be considered Nietzschean hero, then perhaps the philosopher was not so bad. I have neither the time nor the inclination to get into exactly what Nietzschean hero who embraces concepts like the Will to Power is, so I will provide some links within for further study. In the meantime, if you enjoyed Walter White’s becoming awake on “Breaking Bad” then you might want to check out these other TV character that I would position as Nietzschean heroes.
Miles Drentell: Thirtysomething
The smooth operator who headed up a successful advertising agency on “Thirtysomething” may seem an unlikely companion to Walter White under any philosophical terms, but I would argue that Miles Drentell is most assuredly a Nietzschean hero. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes Nietzsche’s concept of the Will to power thusly: “a pouring-out of expansive energy as if one were like a perpetually-shining sun that, quite naturally, can entail danger, pain, lies, deception and masks.” Anyone who ever watched Miles Drentell operate on “Thirtysomething” knows exactly what I mean when I compare him to that description.
Capt. Benjamin Sisko: Star Trek Deep Space Nine
Long before Walter White shaved his head and grew and evil beard, Benjamin Sisko did the same thing. When Sisko took his role as commander of Deep Space Nine, he looked as different from the Captain he became as schoolteacher Walter White looked from the drug kingpin he became. One of the precepts of Nietzschean philosophy is putting what you personally view as the greater good above petty issues of morality. Sisko himself admits to cheating, lying and betraying all those highfalutin’ principles of the Federation to trick the Romulans into joining in the war against the Dominion. In revealing that the Federation was never all that principled to begin with, Sisko stakes his place as not only the greatest of Star Trek captains, but the most truly Nietzschean.
Xena: Warrior Princess
Proving that you don’t need to be a man to be a Nietzschean hero, Xena provides perhaps the most illuminating case for what really makes a TV character a Nietzschean hero. Xena spent most of her adult life as the very epitome of the standard misinterpretation of Nietzschean with Nazi-style fascism. Like Walter White, Xena reaches a moment of revelation in which she becomes awake. And in her awakened state, she exerts a Will to Power that is opposite of Walter White’s but every bit as, well, Nietzschean.
Specifically, Sherlock Holmes as portrayed by Jeremy Brett in the British series of the 1980s and 1990s. I examined how Brett through performance manages to transform Sherlock Holmes into a Nietzschean hero at length in “Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy.” In a bit of Nietzschean willing to power, I am including a link to where you can purchase a copy of “Sherlock Holmes and Philosophy” with a personalized autograph just for you . The book features my chapter as well as a host of many other fascinating insights into philosophical ideas expressed through Sherlock Holmes.