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AMC's Breaking Bad serves to highlight the failure of the war on drugs

August 12, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Although I’ve never seen the show, I’ve heard many people buzzing about the AMC show Breaking Bad. The story revolves around the main character, Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston), who is a high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine producer and dealer. According to show reviews, he began manufacturing the drug when he was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer at the beginning of the popular series. His goal in doing this is to leave his family financially secure when he passes.

Before the final season began on Sunday evening, there was a message that The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and Beyond Bars wanted to share. The two groups teamed up to release an edgy and thought-provoking new video relating to this premiere.

The video opens with the question: “What Does Breaking Bad reveal about the war on drugs?”

The answers appear between a montage of clips from the series. The message is that the war on drugs doesn’t stop drug use, but instead promotes crime and enriches drug lords. Graphic clips of people using meth and other drugs are juxtaposed with images of violence, murder and large amounts of cash.

“We wanted to create an entertaining video for Breaking Bad fans to illustrate that the drug war is a failure when it comes to reducing drug use and fuels a vicious cycle of violence,” said Tony Newman, director of media relations at the DPA, in a press release. “The orgy of death and destruction depicted in Breaking Bad is the result of drug prohibition.”

“Breaking Bad is about a guy who's in too deep and causes more and more damage to the people around him. That sounds an awful lot like the War on Drugs," said Jesse Lava, director of Beyond Bars. "Our country has dug itself into a trillion-dollar hole with a drug war that's devastating communities and creating more violence than it's stopping. It's time to stop digging."

The DPA is the nation’s leading organization promoting alternatives to the war on drugs. According to the organization’s website, its supporters believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. Beyond Bars produces videos and engages social media to fight mass incarceration.

Sunday’s premiere of Breaking Bad reached 5.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings company. Although the video by the DPA and Beyond Bars may not have had quite the reach, the people behind the video are hopeful that this will start conversations. A slide at the end of the video urges the viewers to share the video and get involved with the DPA and/or Beyond Bars.

If you’ve seen the show, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this video and on the viewpoint of these organizations. Are they right? Do you disagree?

If you haven’t seen the show, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. Sometimes it can be extremely beneficial to research today’s culture to find out where people are focusing their time and attention. Apparently 5.9 million were focused in on this show on Sunday night and I think these organizations were smart to find a window there.

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Shannon Brys