Is “Breaking Bad” a critique of U.S. health care (or lack thereof)?

walt-breaking-badLast night, I visited my parents for dinner and then watched the…season… no… series… [come on Katie! You can do it!]… finale [sniffles] of Breaking Bad. Though I told my mom not to watch the finale and to instead watch the entire series from the beginning, she watched the final episode with me. During the particularly moving scene between Walter and Skylar, my mom said, “This is all about lack of health care. The undoing of the social fabric. It’s so sad.”

Was she right? There has been some debate of the issue. Not surprisingly, some conservatives argue that teachers receive some of the best benefits and can’t complain.  Others argue that the same thing would have happened under socialized medicine. But as Barbara Friedland points out,

Often they, teachers-police-fire fighters- are forced into HMO’s. HMO’s do not usually like paying for expensive medical expertise and treatments. And what if White gets fired because he is too sick to continue to work. There goes the heath coverage.

Also, if you haven’t watched BB, conservative columnists, you missed the point. White, fictional character, made very little as a chemistry teacher in Albuquerque. He was concerned about how his family would survive after he died. So let’s pay teachers more and hedge fund managers less.

Also and again. America needs to provide healthcare to all citizens. Because if fictional Walter White died soon after his disease was diagnosed, he would have left an infant daughter or one about to be born. And a special needs teenager. How would the widow provide coverage for them?

And consider the images (and analysis) below the jump, which imagine what life would have looked like for Walter White, had he not lived in the United States. And check back later today for my Breaking Bad video mash-up.

This is what writer and artist Christopher Keelty thinks Breaking Bad outside the U.S. would look like.


Lest you think Keelty hasn’t given seriously considered the issues, he lays out why Breaking Bad is a tragedy which results from two failed U.S. policies: health care and the war on drugs.

Also, check out this meme of what life would have looked like for a Canadian Walter White. I guess for the sake of television, we should be happy the social safety nets in the United States are so insufficient.



Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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