In recent years, television programs that focus on heavy drug use have been on the rise. One show in particular, Breaking Bad, has been a major hit with teens and young adults. A total of 10.3 million viewers tuned into watch the show’s series finale, 5.2 million of which were adults age 18-49 (Entertainment Weekly). Focusing on the drug business regarding crystal meth Breaking Bad depicts a thrillingly dangerous lifestyle. The show has developed a dedicated following, but one cannot help but wonder, what effect is this type of show having on its viewers? One might assume that television programming would have a strong influence on the habits of young viewers, so the main question is: what, ...view middle of the document...
Although this study points out its findings of no causal link related to advertising, it suggested the other studies that were mentioned in the results could be on the trail of discovering a possible relationship between drug users and advertising influencing drug abuse.
Yet another study, “TV Drug Advertising and Proprietary and Illicit Drug Use among Teenage Boys,” was more closely related to the age group in question. This particular study examined the “relationships between exposure to drug advertising on television and (a) use of proprietary drugs, (b) use of illicit drugs, and (c) an attitude of readiness to take proprietary drugs” (Milavsky, Pekowsky & Stipp). The teenage boys who participated in the study were followed over a three-year time period. The boys provided information regarding the television programs they watched, enabling researchers to conclude that, “drug advertising exposure shows a weak positive relationship to teenage boys’ use of proprietary drugs. Additionally, it shows a negative relationship to their use of illicit drugs – both marijuana and other drugs” (Milavsky, Pekowsky & Stipp). These two studies state that there is no strong connection between television and drug use; however, the fact that they both mention the possibility of a weak connection leaves room to question their findings, especially since both studies took place in the 1970s. One might wonder how the connection has changed in more recent years.
In 2008, Breaking Bad had its series premiere. For five seasons, the show followed the life of a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher turned crystal meth producer to make money to support his family and pay for his treatments (IMDb). A Texas Assistant District Attorney, Blake Ewing, has concerns that the show glorifies the lifestyle related to the use and supply of crystal meth. He writes:
when a critically acclaimed television show centered on the drug world so permeates popular culture that it becomes the subject of watercooler talk and Jimmy Fallon parodies, there can be little doubt that some people on the margins of society will be drawn into that world, if only out of morbid curiosity (Time).
Although Ewing is no expert, he has experience working in an environment where methamphetamine is the biggest narcotics problem (Time). His belief that those on the margins of society could potentially get sucked into the life of a meth addict after watching Breaking Bad raises possible concerns that young viewers who feel that they do not fit in could become involved with this lifestyle. When this belief is combined with the findings of the studies that suggest there could be a possible connection between television advertising and drug use, it might be safe to assume that the show itself is causing drug use among its viewers.
Brian Braiker, a writer for website, Digiday, argues that Breaking Bad has mainstreamed methamphetamine. He states, “Meth never had better marketing than ‘Breaking Bad.’ It was, to...