Captain America is a Meth Addict: Analyzing Vince Gilligan’s Subtle and Scathing Indictment of America in Breaking Bad

Sam Bannon Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Melissa Etzler Butler University
America is not grand, and America is not amazing—at least according to Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan. One could make a fairly substantial argument that the entire series of Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad (2008-2013) is a harsh critique of America’s healthcare system at the time. If protagonist Walter White could have received decent healthcare, he would not have been forced to cook meth in order to pay for his treatment and leave his family without crippling debt after he passes. However, the premise of the series is only one aspect of Gilligan’s reprimand on the United States. Arguably his harshest look at America comes in Season 2, Episode 4, “Down.” The episode’s first line is literally “Hey, Captain America!” (1:41) spoken to White's partner-in-crime Jesse Pinkman, a former student from White's high school chemistry class, by a homeless man outside of a convenience store. This sets the stage of Jesse, a twenty-something unqualified for employment, being “Captain America,” a symbol of the country. Keeping the sociopolitical context of the U.S. at the time of "Down" in mind, I reveal how Gilligan takes a scolding look at how in America, when someone is down, they stay down.
Communication & Media Studies
Oral Presentation

When & Where

11:00 AM
Jordan Hall 236