Pop Culture Advisory: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad‘s fifth season is coming out on dvd today, heralding the return of meek chemistry teacher turned meth dealer Walter White; his wife, Skyler; former student and fellow meth cook Jesse Pinkman; Walter’s DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank; and the various other characters that spin into and out of his increasingly lawless orbit. Here are some suggestions for movies, books, TV shows, and music that might satisfy patrons stuck in wait-list limbo or those who are waiting, patiently or not, for the sixth season to start on August 11.

For those who like the antihero:

  • Fight Club: A sympathetic everyman protagonist who gets involved in a criminal enterprise and ensuing violence because of his association with a charismatic sidekick? Sounds familiar.
  • The Millennium Trilogy: any or all of Stieg Larsson’s novels, the Swedish films, or the American adaptations. Whether you love ’em or think they’re grossly overrated, there’s no denying that awkward, damaged, occasionally violent hacker Lisbeth Salander, the titular girl with the dragon tattoo, is one of the most compelling characters in recent fiction.
  • Mad Men: There comes a point in every viewer’s life when he or she realizes that Don Draper is never going to learn from his experiences and become a better person, but that he or she is never going to stop watching to see what happens. So too with Walter White.
  • Sons of Anarchy: Think of this biker gang saga as a cross between Hamlet and The Sopranos, set in inland northern California. Jax Teller, the Hamlet character played by Charlie Hunnam (also set to star in this summer’s blockbuster Pacific Rim) is an outlaw hero just looking out for his family, joined by an outstanding cast of characters including Katey Sagal in the Gertrude-like role, Ron Perlman as a stand-in for Claudius, and many others in this underrated ensemble drama.

For those who like drug-related plots:

  • Winter’s Bone (Daniel Woodrell’s novel or the 2010 film starring Jennifer Lawrence): Ree Dolly’s father, who allegedly runs a meth lab, has skipped bail, so she sets out to find him before her family loses their home in the Ozarks.
  • Trainspotting (Irvine Welsh’s novel or Danny Boyle’s 1996 film): While Winter’s Bone shines a light on rural poverty, Trainspotting examines the effects of urban poverty in Edinburgh on the lives of a group of heroin addicts.
  • The Showtime series Weeds takes a more comedic look at the life of an unexpected drug dealer as Mary-Louise Parker begins sells marijuana after her husband’s death.

For those who were intrigued by the narcocorrido ballad Negro Y Azul  by Los Cuates de Sinalo, which opened the seventh episode of the second season and is part of a tradition of folk songs about the exploits of revolutionaries and ne’er-do-wells:

  • Both norteño music and its more Americanized counterpart, tejano music, will appeal to these listeners. Those interested in the roots of the form will enjoy Arhoolie Records’ collections of Mexican-American border music.

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Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (sklose@mediasourceinc.com, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.