The Crisis in Masculinity: Neoliberalism and Masculinity in Breaking Bad

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Christian Harsfort
  • Jakob Holm
4. term, English, Master (Master Programme)
Ever since the Second World War men began to see a decline in their patriarchal roles from the societal shift such as equal rights and the role of women in the workplace. One of the problematic results of this is the increasing rates of suicide in males as a warning signal of a deep cultural problem in contemporary Western society. Males lack a script to deal with the masculinity crisis that they are currently experiencing. Through examples of popular culture, the portrayal of men struggling to find new ways to regain lost masculinity is examined from a neoliberal perspective exhibited in the TV-series Breaking Bad and the Marvel Cinematic Universe Deadpool films. These texts provoke a neoliberal reconstruction of masculinity that enforces the patriarchal hierarchy for men to regain a sense of purpose. However, this neoliberal reconstruction also persuades men to abandon a set of familial ideals that include positive and feminine attributes and replace it with hegemonic and violent tendencies. Through the analysis of Breaking Bad and Deadpool, it becomes apparent that modern television offers a unique insight into how contemporary culture deals with the crisis in masculinity and it also offers a critique of the same value system that it promotes. The crisis is seen through the extremes that men are willing to go to in order to portray themselves as being a capable patriarch. Breaking Bad exemplifies the domination and violence needed to reach the top of the male hierarchy through the emasculated Walter White who overtakes the illegal drug industry. The crisis is further shown through a meta-analysis of the Deadpool movies, and how deeply connected the actor is with the character. Wade Wilson from Deadpool enforces the same traditional ideals of masculinity as Walter does, however from the other end of the spectrum. While Walter White is trying to establish himself as a dominating patriarch, Wade Wilson is able to embody more feminine traits due to his interrelation with the highly masculine actor, Ryan Reynolds. While the Deadpool films attempt to patronise the traditional masculine traits, it is also founded in the same patriarchal ideals. Thereby stating that men has to establish themselves through a traditional hierarchy before they can adopt positive attributes. The TV-show and films thus present a script for men in which they must embody the contradictory ideals of masculinity in order to regain a sense of purpose in society. Therefore, the thesis proves itself relevant, as it highlights the devastating effects of the toxic traits of masculinity, where being a neoliberal winner overshadows the familial values.
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2 Jun 2020
Number of pages73
ID: 333329316