May 1, 2016

Breaking Bad: Everyone Loves Jesse

People kept telling me, "You have to watch Breaking Bad (2008-2013).  It's great!  It's fabulous!  It's colossal!"

I turned on the first episode, in which Albuquerque chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) finds out that he has lung cancer, and in order to provide for his family, decides to produce methamphetamine.  He talks one of his ex-students, a meth dealer named Jesse (Aaron Paul),into being his assistant.

Jesse uses anti-gay slurs.

Click.  Why should I watch a homophobic program?

My friends implore me to watch.

But the program is homophobic!

Recently I have been forced to watch The Shield, which was the most homophobic programs ever, dripping with contempt for homos, and with an actual plotline in which a gay guy turns straight due to the power of prayer!  So I figured I could handle Breaking Bad.

The homophobic slurs are infrequent after the first episode.  I guess the writers figured they had gotten rid of all the gay viewers, and didn't need to bother anymore.

So, what did I find, going incognito into a program exclusively for heterosexuals?

Well, of course, there are no explicitly gay characters.  Like most television drama, Breaking Bad is set in a world where gay people are assumed not to exist.

But, wow!  Walt and Jesse.

They behave like romantic partners.

They are treated like romantic partners.

They break up, date other people, then reconcile.

Jesse is wooed by a new boyfriend, Mike, and Walt roils with jealousy and tries to win him back.

Each says to a bad guy (well, to someone equally bad), "If you kill him, you'll have to kill me, too."

Even other people notice.  When Mike is told "If you kill him, you'll have to kill me too," he says "What is it with you two?"

Even in Season 5, after Walt has betrayed Jesse a dozen times, Jesse still behaves as if he's in love with him.

Jesse says "Why don't you stop pretending that you care about me?"

Walt hugs him.  Jesse breaks down and sobs.

Then there are the gay characters, or at least characters who are well-groomed, sophisticated, and expressing no interest in women.

Including big time meth dealer Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), who, in a flashback, sees his lover murdered by cartel head Hector Salamanca. He invites guys he likes, such as Jesse, over for dinner and who-knows-what-else at his house.

At one of the drug cartel's gatherings, the entertainment consists of women, who come in and sit on the laps of the men.  Not Gustavo, though.  He's obviously not interested.

During one of Walt and Jesse's breakups, Gale Boetticher (David Costabile) becomes Walt's new assistant.  Well-groomed, sophisticated, no women around, gives Walt a copy of Leaves of Grass, the famous gay-themed classic, with the inscription: "To my star, my perfect silence"

What, exactly, were they up to after hours?

For that matter, few if any of the characters on Breaking Bad exhibit significant

Walt's teenage son Junior (RJ Mitte) has a best boy friend but never mentions girls, although he gets the standard heterosexist "you must be girl-crazy" gibberish from his dad and uncle.

Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), one of the baddie drug dealers, spends all of his time with men.

Jesse's friends, Badger (Matt L. Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), display an interest in women in just one scene.

Hank (Dean Norris), Walt's brother-in-law, who also happens to be a DEA Agent, has a wife, but he spends all of his quality time in the company of men.  He even tries to woo Jesse away from Walt.

Who doesn't?  This show should be called Everybody Loves Jesse.

So that's what heterosexuals are up to when they think there are no gay people watching.