September 29, 2013

Meth crimes in Breaking Bad

With the series finale of Breaking Bad, the hype is approaching the "breaking" point. Here's more on the show's connection with Indian country:

Breaking Bad or Already Broken? Drug Crime on the Rez Is All Too Real

By Walter LamarWhat does it say about safety in Indian country when a television plot featuring meth distribution incorporates tribal land? Breaking Bad might give Indian country the new name of "Broken and Bad" after the brutal television series, featuring tribal lands, exemplified a continuing public safety crisis. Season 5, Episode 13, entitled “To'hajiilee,” aired on September 8, 2013 and marks the beginning of the end for the wildly popular AMC series. It's also one more example of how the media persistently depicts Indian country as the place to go to commit drug crimes, murder, and general mayhem.

From the very first episode, and periodically throughout the series, the remote To'hajiilee lands have been the setting for drug manufacture, murders, and concealing evidence. To'hajiilee is a non-contiguous section of the Navajo Nation lying in parts of three New Mexico counties, about 32 miles west of Albuquerque. Despite its proximity to an urban area, To'hajiilee feels isolated and remote. A tangle of secondary roads, many both unmarked and unpaved, crisscross the reservation's 121 square miles. With only 2000 residents, you may go miles without seeing a soul. In "Breaking Bad," the series of crimes committed on these tribal lands (theft, murder, extortion, drug manufacture and distribution, assault and much else), set the stage for what promises to be a violent and action-packed series finale.
'Breaking Bad' Actor Jeremiah Bitsui Shares his Thoughts on the FinaleActor Jeremiah Bitsui, Navajo and Omaha, played Victor in eight episodes of Breaking Bad, the AMC television series that is set to end on Sunday night. The character was the subordinate of drug kingpin Gus, played by Giancarlo Esposito, who ended up killing Victor at the beginning of season four. Bitsui, who has remained an avid fan of the series, took a few moments to look back on the experience and share his thoughts on the finale with ICTMN.Comment:  Since I've watched only the first season of Breaking Bad, I can't say whether its depiction of Indian country is stereotypical. But Walter Lamar implies that it is.

Even if crimes on the rez happen exactly as depicted in Breaking Bad, that isn't the whole story. As with recent Lakota documentaries, the question is whether the series shows a range of tribal circumstances, both good and bad. Any show that highlights the bad and ignores the good is stereotypical even if it's technically accurate.

For more on the subject, see To'hajiilee in Breaking Bad.

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