Aesthetics of the Protagonist/Antagonist


Even though I’d never watched an episode of Breaking Bad until now, it was easy to tell who the protagonists were and who the antagonists were–even in the tricky world of drug dealing. Mainly, how Jesse looked aesthetically/visually set him morally above Spooge and family, even though Jesse, Spooge and Spooge’s wife all use crystal meth.

First, Spooge and his wife are clearly more addicted to meth than Jesse. They live in a filthy house with a hungry, dirty toddler who wears no pants. The house is filmed in a dingy,  jaundiced light. Further, there are track marks all up and down Spooge and his wife’s arms, their bodies look strained and emaciated, and their simple white shirts are ashen. In contrast, Jesse is wearing clean, sunny yellow, designer gangster clothes. He is young and in good physical shape. 

While it’s not entirely clear to me what the “‘right cause'” is, as Adorno puts it, even if I were just shown a photograph of each of the character, it would still be evident that Jesse is being “personally idealized” as part of the (relatively) “good” team (173). That is, I wouldn’t need to see Spooge’s wife facilitating Spooge’s death, Spooge stealing an ATM in what he considers a “victimless crime” (even though it kills a cashier), or Spooge’s wife actively neglecting her child’s well-being in order to know that Jesse, who feeds the child and makes sure that the young boy doesn’t bear witness to foul play, is the more upstanding character.


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