introduction

I LIKE THE TELEVISION SHOW Breaking Bad for a lot of reasons, but what I’ve been continually impressed with is how the show tells, in neat compact examples, the story of middle-class life in contemporary America. Walter White’s problems, if not his solutions, aren’t much different than those of millions in the US over the last decade. He’s just another striver who feels caught running up a down escalator.

What also struck me is how well the show tells this story through single scenes, sometimes single images: a certain make of car, an inflatable pool lounger, a flat-screen TV. As objects, they’re commonplace enough that most viewers own at least one of them. But as props in a story about a man who seems to be losing his economic hold on things, they often reveal more than they say.

What these everyday objects reveal are certain basic hopes and disappointments of today’s middle class. But because these things–mid-sized cars, mall-outlet sweaters, low-fat bacon strips and so on–are so familiar to us as Americans, they often escape our notice as viewers. This weblog gives these objects a second glance and tries to get them to say something, both about the show and its characters, and about its viewers as well.