A fair question. Two quick answers:
1. Those of us lucky enough to live in the most progressive parts of the world tend to focus on how good we have it, and yet we still haven’t achieved true gender equality.
2. I’m over trying to pitch women’s magazines. If the story isn’t about slimmer thighs for summer, they’re just not interested.
This stuff is important, I’ll try not to make it too dry.
Photo from businessinsider.com
(Spoiler alert: Please refrain from reading if you have not yet seen the final season of Breaking Bad.)
I’ve been wanting someone to write an article about the corrupted ideal of masculinity personified by Breaking Bad's Walter White ever since I started watching the last season. Recently Silpa Kowali wrote a piece for theatlantic.com on this topic saying:
The stereotypically masculine quest for greater power begin as a quest to get things done—to provide for family, to get vengeance for a loyal partner, to help create a sense of order and justice in a seemingly chaotic and amoral universe. But Breaking Bad suggests that quest ultimately isn’t about family or a greater good. It’s just about gaining more power.
I think what makes the show so relatable, despite its outlandish premise and absurd plot twists, is that Walter White equates financial success and control over others with masculinity, the way so many men in previous generations have done. This makes him miss what his family actually needs from him, which is for him to be a loving father and husband and an ethical role model.
His mistake is not unique to murderous drug lords. There often exists a division of labor (specifically in Baby Boomer, heterosexual couples), in which the provider man battles the outside world while the homemaker woman cares for the children. And, at least in my experience, despite having the most time and means, the wealthiest, most professionally successful men put the least emotional work into their families, which supports Kowali’s statement that the “quest ultimately isn’t about family or a greater good. It’s just about gaining more power.”
There was an interesting comment about Jesse Pinkman on Kowali’s article:
Jesse is the sidekick the writers put in peril when they wanted the audience to gasp and weep, because he doesn’t deserve what he gets. It’s a time-honored technique, although usually a role written for a woman to play out.
Perhaps Jesse represents a new kind of masculinity. He is a man who is sensitive, emotionally open and invested in children more than he is domineering, emotionally guarded and invested in power. And it is this type of man who survives in the end, in large part because he doesn’t destroy himself.