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


  • Sanja Kovačević



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


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


Author Biography

Sanja Kovačević

Croatian Audiovisual Centre, Zagreb

Sanja Kovačević (1969) acquired MA degree in Dramaturgy at the Academy of Drama Arts and MA degree in sociology at Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences (University of Zagreb). She was lecturer of “Production Menagement” at Social Science Polytechnic School, Zagreb, and of “Dramaturgy and Produciton of TV series” at Academy of Drama Arts. She wrote a book Quality TV Series: Millennial Age of Screen (2017) and essays about film at “Croatian Film Chronicles”. She is author of dozen buy-out screenplays for TV series, feature film screenplays (House won two international awards, 2010), and short films (Kanal was in competition of International Film Festival, 2009). She worked as Head Writer on drama series Good Intentions (2007), as executive producer, head editor and scriptwriter on several TV series and sitcoms. Currently she is engaged as the Artistic Advisor in category of TV development at Croatian Audiovisual Centre. She works as screenwriting workshop tutor and script-doctor.


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How to Cite

Kovačević, S. (2018). Tricky Questions and Straight Answers About Ethics in Breaking Bad and The Wire. AM Journal of Art and Media Studies, (17), 59–69.