The Scary Part of Being Human
Five Reasons Why Shows Like “Breaking Bad” and Movies Like “The Exorcist” Fascinate Us
I was at the edge of my seat desperately waiting for Walter White and Jesse Pinkman to get their revenge on criminals who did them wrong. Yes, I said it. I actually wanted these proverbial meth criminals, known assassins, to walk away redeemed when the last show of “Breaking Bad” aired on Sunday, September 29, 2013. I mean, who didn’t? In 1973, I had nightmares for months after I saw “The Exorcist.” I couldn’t stop thinking about how terrifying evil can be. What is it about modern literature, the popularity of exposing the darkest parts of being human, that has piqued our collective curiosity so intensely? Why are zombies and vampires and serial killers so much in pop culture demand? I’m not a sociologist, nor an anthropologist, but I have spent 36 years in charge of molding little human beings through many eras of popular culture. As a veteran teacher, my observational skills are keen enough to make a few educated guesses.
Technology Has Lifted All Filters On the World. In my day, the only windows on the world consisted of network television and radio news. Parents could easily monitor the real violence to which we were privy. I was a teen before I first saw violence up close and personal during the Vietnam War, aired on the nightly news. It was, for many of us, a more innocent time. Now, the world is at our fingertips 24/7, and it can be scary. We are exposed to so much evil, our mind has to find a way to process and catalog it. Shows like “Breaking Bad” give us a place to unload the weight of seeing unsolved acts of hatred because on these shows the bad guys always get caught.
We Have Become More Evolved. Of course, with technology, knowledge is power. That is the good side of becoming more educated as a society. A more sophisticated intelligence carries more responsibility. Scientists are making rapid discoveries with respect to how the human mind processes thought and emotion. We are chemically wired to feel. Feelings cause humans to think about and do forbidden things; however, most of us live within normal limits of this power. We don’t have to act on our hatred and fears. We can get our visceral satisfactions through the fun of fantasy, revenge media. Only a fraction of the human race acts upon the dark side of their thoughts and feelings. Thank goodness.
The Blurred Lines of Societal Taboos. Standards and practices that once ruled the air waves are much less stringent; hence, cable viewing. Writers, directors and producers have taken off the blinders and are much freer to create characters that are violent, ghoulish and just plain evil. When has anyone ever not watched an accident on the side of the road?
Being Repulsed is a Thrill. Since the beginning of time, man has been fascinated with anything that makes the adrenalin rush. Early man needed it to be able to flee faster when encountering a hungry bear. Now we pay to see movies that make our heart race and our palms sweat. It’s the way we are wired.
Modern Life Can Be Too Automated. Early man also had to use every part of his body to survive. He was always in motion. Life was never boring. Modern man has become so comfortable and steeped in routine, we often want something or someone to take us out of the daily grind, so to speak. Television shows, movies and video games that barrage us with an action every second make us feel alive. We have become addicted to feeling out of control in order to pretend that our lives aren’t so predictable.
Breaking Bad is over. Bummer. What is there to watch now?