Tricky Questions and Straight Answers About Ethics in Breaking Bad and The Wire

Sanja Kovačević


This paper explores how the television series Breaking Bad argues about the ethics of Social Darwinism as dominant to the interest of the community, and why this is not just philosophical or religious question. It also makes a brief comparison with the ethical situation as portrayed in another television series, The Wire, claiming that these substantially different series, (one approaching morality and ethics through sheer individualism and free will, another through social determinism) both teach similar lessons about ethics. Having its main theme centered around ethics, Breaking Bad sees causes of socio-economical crises primarily in the moral destruction of modern society that destroys its institutions, not the other way around. In contrast, The Wire finds human morality in a dichotomy of an idealist-pragmatist type of man trapped inside the social systems that brutally arrange human lives through ‘the Game’ – in essence the socio-economical rules of urban life. I argue that Breaking Bad offers more arguments for not engaging in ‘Darwinist’ ethics, showing us in both literal and metaphorical ways the entire process arising from totalitarianism as today’s most feared form of social system.


Article received: May 10, 2018; Article accepted: May 14, 2018; Published online: October 1, 2018; Original scholarly paper


How to cite this article: Kovačević, Sanja. "Tricky Questions and Straight Answers About Ethics in Breaking Bad and The Wire." AM Journal of Art and Media Studies 17 (2018): 59−69. doi: 10.25038/am.v0i17.270


quality TV series; Breaking Bad; The Wire; ethics; morality; Darwinism; solidarity

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