I’ve learned quite a bit from our own Bob Bertram over the years. His many years of graphic arts design, combined with his many years of basically studying human behavior, equates to, well, many years.
So I listen when Bob tells me about an article he recently read somewhere, or his interpretation of what somebody else was suggesting. He has insight on everything from the environment to music to hidden gems in movies. When he started talking about how much he enjoyed the AMC television show “Breaking Bad,” I took note.
I was able to secure the first three seasons of the show and got caught up, and I have been addicted ever since. In fact, there are really only two current shows on television I watch, outside of sports, and that is one of them.
For those unfamiliar with the show, the main character, Walt, was a science teacher who was struck with cancer, and enlisted the help of one of his former pupils to start cooking methamphetamine to pay his medical bills and make sure his family was provided for in case he didn’t win the fight. He ends up getting caught up in the drug business (and ego business) and gets himself further immersed in this world.
There have been numerous times while watching this show that I’d just take a minute and come to the frightening realization that I was rooting for this guy to produce as much meth as possible, to avoid law enforcement and to basically flood the streets with his trademark blue product.
I don’t admit to that with pride.
And that thought about the streets being flooded with Walt’s blue meth? Well ...
A story on Yahoo! earlier this week discussed the Candy Lady store in Albuquerque, N.M. (where “Breaking Bad” takes place, by the way). She has been selling “meth candy,” which has appeared in the program, and which got a major boost in sales when the show’s star, Bryan Cranston, displayed them on David Letterman’s “Late Show” in July.
“The response has been great,” said Candy Lady owner Debbie Hall. “I think it’s starting to go viral. I’m getting calls from all over the world. I have to make 400 bags before tomorrow morning.”
Well, good for her.
Look, we have a long history in this country of rooting for the protagonist who might be on the wrong side of the law — just see our love affairs with Bonnie and Clyde, Tony Soprano, Michael Corleone, Tony Montana, Jesse James, etc. We pull for the main character, despite how shady that character might be, because we are exposed to that person’s life, or the circumstances that led to the path they chose. They are humanized on film or in books, and we tend to identify with that, for good or bad.
But candy that looks like drugs? Doesn’t that send a bit of a wrong message to children?
“I had candy cigarettes when I was a kid,” said Hall. “And I don’t smoke cigarettes now. And I’ve never sold a bag of meth candy to a kid.”
So, yeah, there’s that.
Look, I’m a big freedom-of-speech guy. I believe groups like the Klan have the same right to voice their opinions as anybody else. I believe that there is far too much government interference in this nation, and that if something or somebody isn’t hurting somebody else, then what the heck does it matter what they do?
But I do think this sends a terrible message. Even if she doesn’t hand over a bag of her meth candy to a little kid in the store, does she not think that little kids soak in every sight and smell in a candy store? Does she not think that kids seeing their parents buying bags of meth candy and laughing about their purchase minimalizes the potential damages of meth? Is she eating crack candy?
And, more importantly, am I done asking inane questions?
Having a television show on cable at 10 p.m. on Sunday nights that glorifies the life of a drug chemist is one thing. Packaging it as candy to expand sales is quite another.
I’m not as old as Bob, and even I understand that.