Although the shutdown is in full effect, leaving many in that limbo lurch, the world hasn’t stopped, well, dying. Biology can’t be shut down, nor can the machinations of fate. We die, and that’s all there is to it. All that really matters is HOW we die. Do we die like men, or do we die like pussies? Yes, pussies. Will cowardice swim in your bones like sharks, or will you spit and yell at cowardice as it slinks out the room in defeat during your final breaths?
Walter White, our favorite meth-manufacturing antihero (also known as Heisenberg) died like a man, or so says Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan in a recent podcast. In his words, “[Walter White] he went out like a man.” In response, Laura Hudson of Wired.com asks, “What, exactly, does it mean to be a man?” She raises a good question, one that should ALWAYS be asked, but more importantly, what, exactly, does it mean to die like a man? What does Vince Gilligan mean?
Well, Walter goes from brilliant, though mild-mannered, high school chemistry teacher to a powerful drug kingpin. The moment he is diagnosed with lung cancer is the moment he realizes he has lived a life of little to no masculinity. He, in his eyes, is a failure. He has not achieved enough, has not provided enough for his family. He, in other words, is no man (according to Gilligan’s standards). Not only can’t he pay for his treatment, he has not saved enough money to leave his family when he dies. Hence, Walter starts cooking meth. It’s as simple as that. Or is it?
Upon realizing he has lost his family, Gus Fring (a fellow drug kingpin) says this to Walter, “When you have children, you will always have family. They will always be your priority, your responsibility. And a man, a man provides. And he does it even when he’s not appreciated, or respected, or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it. Because he’s a man.”
Is that a man? By the end of the series, it can be argued that Walter is not appreciated, respected or loved by his family. But he has provided. He has made sure that his family has money. However, by his own admission, he didn’t really stay in the meth business for them; he stayed it for himself, his self-respect. In Walter’s words, “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really…I was alive.” This is Walter’s masculine confession.
The etymology of the word confession is fascinating. One definition that sticks out is the following (according to the Online Etymology Dictionary): “Old French confesser thus had a figurative sense of “to harm, hurt, make suffer.” The beating heart of the word confession is rooted in, well, violence. When one confesses something, who are they harming (or hurting or making suffer)? Himself or the person/people they are speaking to, if any? Probably all parties.. Regardless, what we can gleam from a simple etymological look at the word is that a confession is the violent stripping away of the soul with intention to harm, the murder of pride and of ego. Confessing anything may be the most masculine thing one can do when nearing death.
Back to Walter’s confession… While cooking meth allowed Walter to provide for his family, it also allowed for his transformation to Man, giving him dominance over the world around him. In death, he exerted that same dominance; all the pieces had fallen the way he wanted them to.
Although abandoned by his family, he was never abandoned by his newfound sense of dominance, of alpha-maleness. Perhaps providing for your family means providing dominance over the world around you. In death, there can be no pussies. All you can do is confess and be a man.
Post by Geoff LaPlace