By Izzie Hockey
Television shows about drugs and crime receive high ratings-- but are they good for our culture? Do they encourage and glorify illegal behavior? Read more to hear what we have to say.
Breaking Bad and Narcos are both popular TV shows on Netflix that contain a variety of drug-related topics. Breaking Bad is a completely fictional show that depicts the life of a chemistry teacher who turns to making crystal-methamphetamine in order to finance his cancer treatment. Contrarily, Narcos relies on the true history of Pablo Escobar, a drug lord best known for selling cocaine in Colombia until he was murdered in 1993. When watching these shows, I wonder whether the media glamorizes both of the protagonists’ situations. In reality, drugs ruin lives and even kill thousands of people, yet drugs frequently appear on these shows as positive sources of wealth and status for those in control of the narcotics industry.
In the first four years of Breaking Bad, there was an increase of 8,000 kilograms in crystal-meth seizures in the Southwest, according to the DEA. Some people would argue that this is merely a coincidence because the audience realizes the fictionality of the characters and plot line. However, the audience could be subliminally influenced by the content and themes of the show. The concept that a man with a legitimate job can produce and sell drugs, while keeping it a secret, may convince others to follow this career path as the character appears to be making money without any negative consequences. Another thing that shocks me is the detail used in the creation of the crystal-methamphetamine, showing viewers the process and the chemical ingredients used to create the drug. Clearly, even if the show does not make people try the drug, it could be teaching the audience about how to make it.
Narcos is slightly different from Breaking Bad in that it is based on the true story of drug lord Pablo Escobar, who was responsible for thousands of deaths. On one hand, the show is an interesting historical piece that depicts the life of a fascinating character who shaped part of his country’s history. It illustrates his manipulation of the criminal justice system and his ability to gain vast amounts of status and wealth. On the other hand, in portraying Escobar’s status and wealth, the show may be glamorizing drug use. Frequently, Escobar’s money is flaunted through various homes he owns or the instance in which fuels a fire with dollar bills. Escobar is loved by many: an idea that makes me question if this will rekindle people’s support for a brutal man who killed thousands in the search for power.
Both of these shows have enjoyed a vast amount of popularity, and it is questionable whether the entertainment value of Breaking Bad and Narcos outweigh the potential negative effects. Netflix is exposing young people to a dangerous world they have never experienced before. People may just be fascinated by this unknown world, but I fear that this curiosity could easily turn into a desire to experiment with illegal drugs.