Tag Archives: Chuck Klosterman

Popular culture goes all Walter

As someone interested in the state of contemporary culture, I’m on the look out for evidence that things are changing…or at least that precedents have been established and long standing rules are no longer inviolable.

So I love this passage from AN ESSAY by Andrew Romano in The Daily Beast.

“Television is historically good at keeping its characters in a self-imposed stasis so that shows can go on for years or even decades,” says Breaking Bad’s creator, Vince Gilligan. “When I realized this, the logical next step was to think, how can I do a show in which the fundamental drive is toward change?” So Gilligan designed Breaking Bad to transform its hero into a villain—or, as he put it in his early pitch meetings, “Mr. Chips into Scarface.”

This breaks the contract that TV once fashioned with the viewer, that heroes were enchanted and protected from harm.  (The hero in Castle is always in harm’s way but will never come to grief.)  To visit a world in which heroes could go “all Walter,” we were obliged to abandon popular culture for art and literature.  (And no one wanted to go there.)

It’s also worth pointing out that as TV gets better, so does the criticism.  See this essay by Romano and the Chuck Klosterman’s GRANTLAND TREATMENT of Breaking Bad which explores Walter’s transformation with real intelligence and touch.

The trouble with Klosterman, for me, is that he works fearlessly, making a point, and then making all subsequent points depend on it.  There’s no modularity.  He doesn’t seal off sections of the argument.  He could care less about damage control.  He just keeps building and in no time, it’s all or nothing.  Naturally, many of the points are so good and so original that this carries the argument.  But in fact argument is shot through with discontinuities.  It has broken down and what we get (and like) is a kind of serialized illumination.  But, hey, I wish I wrote this badly.


Tom Asacker for pointing out the essay and the passage.

Kill Screen, a new resource for the CCO

This is promising. 

Those of us who study culture watch for new windows.  Kill Screen may be one of these.

So when I read this paragraph, I reached for my wallet and signed up immediately.

The idea for Kill Screen was born while Jamin Brophy-Warren  was hanging out with pal and fellow Pitchfork writer Chris Dahlen in March 2009 at the Gamers Developing Conference in San Francisco.  The two began commiserating over the lack of a Tom Wolfe or Chuck Klosterman of video game writing. “Sure there were tons of bloggers dedicated to the subject,” Jamin says, “But there wasn’t anything high-end and intellectual publication on gaming. So we said, let’s do this.”

The gaming world is a kind of laboratory in which cultural definitions of self and world are being reworked, cultural rules and tolerances tested and refined.  Actually, laboratory might not the wrong metaphor.  What makes the gaming world so exciting is that it operates more like a skunk works, less academic deliberation and more creativity in real time.  In either case, if Kill Screen lives up to its objective, it will be necessary reading for the CCO.  


Boyd Myers, Courtney.  2010.  Kill Screen Magazine: what does it mean to play games.  PSFK. June 4. here.

Edery, David, and Ethan Mollick. 2008. Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business. FT Press.  

To subscribe to Kill Screen, go here.  


Thanks for PSFK for the head’s up on Kill Screen Magazine.