Albuquerque is bucking the national trend of tearing down statues of White heterosexual men across the United States, which would be fine if the men in question were war heroes or world leaders. They aren’t.
Much to the chagrin of Black Lives Matter and Antifa types, the Duke City just erected two bronze statues of straight White guys in honor of a cooking show about meth called Breaking Bad. The series was so popular that it brought international fame to the dying city. People are still coming from all over the globe to see the house where a pizza was thrown on the roof, and to ride around town in an RV that looks exactly like the one used to (fictionally) cook methamphetamines. Now they can visit the Convention Center and take pictures next to the two bronze-faced White actors who made the show famous.
The show is billed as a “Black comedy,” because nothing is funnier than making meth for an already dying community, but the only notable Black actor is a bad guy (racist) who owns a chicken restaurant (racist) and is known for being “ruthless, cruel, and Machiavellian” (racist). The show aired for five seasons, 62 episodes, running over 45 minutes each. For anyone looking to fill a 45-hour void, Breaking Bad may be just what’s missing in your life.
The statues, honoring the main characters, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, were unveiled this weekend at the Albuquerque Convention Center. The actors used the opportunity to pedal their new liquor, Dos Hombres Mezcal, which is a step in the right direction from their fictional wares but still a little uncomfortable. Who would have thought 2022 was the year two rich White guys could get away with selling Mexican booze in majority minority state?
“I think someone should destroy those statues.”–Eddy Aragon, Rock of Talk radio host, Albuquerque
While some have been hesitant to glorify a TV show about drugs, the Albuquerque Journal editorial board endorsed the statues’ erection. They acknowledged that while the show “sends the wrong message given Albuquerque’s very real problems stemming from drug trafficking and addiction,” “like it or not,” the Journal said, (Walter and Jesse) “have become Albuquerque’s best-known ambassadors.”
In other words, fame trumps values, and if it’s meth that makes Albuquerque famous, the rightful response is, according to the Journal, “thank you.”
This isn’t an easy issue to dissect, and plenty will disagree with our assessment here. On the one hand, some White guys made a good show, and people enjoyed it. It’s like pineapple on pepperoni pizza. You may find it sacrilegious, but if that’s what the people want, who are you to say they shouldn’t enjoy it?
The only difference is we’re talking about a globally broadcast television show about a high school chemistry teacher who tries makes drugs that kill hundreds of thousands of people a year, and his image is now Downtown.
Walter White is credited with more than a dozen murders in the show–not to mention being indirectly involved in hundreds of other deaths because of his newfound trade. And that doesn’t count the meth deaths from the fictional users themselves.
Now White is a hero. That’s what statues mean. You don’t erect statues of vicious pit bulls or school shooters as some sort of reverse-psychology lesson in fair warnings and morality. You erect them to celebrate the accomplishments and sacrifices of the bronzed men in question.
The Journal rightly argues that Albuquerque would still have a drug problem even if Breaking Bad never aired. That’s true. New Mexico would still also be ranked last nationally in education without glorifying an allegedly “underpaid” high school teacher, but the messaging doesn’t necessarily help.
It’s always important to filter your rationale through an alternate scenario to see if you would feel the same way if circumstances were reversed. If Donald Trump had tanked the economy and sold our oil reserves to China while gas prices surpassed $5 a gallon back home, would you criticize him? (We hope so.) In the case of the Breaking Bad statues, would the Journal editorial board be as reverent about a show that glorifies human trafficking rather than just drug trafficking? What if it was a comedy and had some underlying elements of family values?
If Bad Santa were based in Albuquerque and brought the city international fame, would we erect statues of a drunk mall Santa known for robbery and sodomy? What if the world’s most watched OnlyFans performer were local and brought in millions in pornography tourism dollars?
Yes, “it’s different,” but Walter and Jesse aren’t exactly Atlas or Rocky.
The Journal claims “the show absolutely did not glorify the illicit drug trade” because “it showed in graphic detail how illicit drugs ruin lives and corrupt men’s souls, albeit in a morbidly compelling way.”
That’s the board’s collective opinion. It’s a bad opinion. Breaking Bad is not a moral story about why you shouldn’t cook and sell meth. It’s a show that uses shock value and taboo for ratings, and it worked.
I get it. Albuquerque wants to be the next Hollywood. The question I have is, why?