Ultra Frightening Oncology: Breaking Bad and UFOs

Olivia Klafta Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Melissa Etzler Butler University
Vince Gilligan, creator of the X-Files and the Breaking Bad universes, continues to flex his knowledge of the sci-fi world by making a deliberate decision in episode four of Breaking Bad. This episode, titled “Cancer Man,” in homage to the X-Files character known as Cancer Man, Black Man, and Cigarette Man, ends with protagonist Walter and his son Walter Jr. watching Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) on the television. Meanwhile, Walter’s wife Skyler attempts to talk to Walt about the cancer education brochure she’s reading. She, as throughout the series, seem much more concerned with facing her husband’s cancer than he. Knowing Gilligan and his extensive experience with the realm of the extraterrestrial, this father-son duo didn’t just happen to stumble upon this particular movie. In this talk, I conduct a close reading of the episode “Cancer Man” to reveal how and why it was informed by the 1956 film. The episode provides a dark commentary on what many assume to be twenty-first century enlightened thinking. Despite our best efforts in science, cancer remains inexplicable. I read the UFOs as cancer, the force which can invade a body and cause its imminent demise, and as an allegory for all those invisible enemies with which we, in vain, attempt to battle.
Communication & Media Studies
Oral Presentation

When & Where

11:15 AM
Jordan Hall 236