Call for Papers: Theology and Breaking Bad

Call for Papers: Theology and Breaking Bad

Editors: David K. Goodin, McGill University, School of Religious Studies david.goodin@mcgill.ca; George Tsakiridis, South Dakota State University george.tsakiridis@sdstate.edu

Abstract and CV Due: July 1, 2020

Final Manuscripts Due: December 31, 2020

“Say my name!”

The moral universe of the era-defining AMC neo-Western crime drama Breaking Bad (2008-2013) is uncompromisingly nihilistic, or is it?

Vince Gilligan created a world where its inhabitants make their own truth. It is an antihero tragedy where our protagonist is beset by uncurable cancer from the onset and sees his legacy cheated by capricious life circumstances and less-than-honest friends—it has left him without hope and bereft of the means even to care for his loved-ones after he is gone. Walter White is a modern-day Job who is enticed to fight back against this pitiless world through the only avenue left open to him, by breaking bad. It is then our antihero becomes a murderous drug lord, executing justice and building a legacy without any (apparent) recourse to divine intervention. As the new persona Heisenberg, Walter White becomes the Judge and providential Overseer in this new world of his own making, becoming manifest by the sheer force of will.

Nevertheless, the presence of a hidden God can still be felt in the Deus ex machina interventions allowing Walter White’s character arc to reach its final conclusion of self-revelation, forgiveness, acceptance, and peace. So too, we witness other characters being guided, often by circumstances beyond their control, to places of deliverance, or alternately, being forced to face the ultimate consequences of a selfish life lived without forgiveness or pity. The Breaking Bad universe is still moral—even amidst morally ambiguous characters acting capriciously within it. There is justice, redemption, and reconciliation to be found, all of which points to the presence of an unseen deity controlling fate itself.

This volume will explore the hidden theology of the Breaking Bad universe from a variety of academic perspectives and religious traditions, both Eastern and Western, modern and ancient.

Target Audience:

Theology and Breaking Bad is aimed at a wide, popular readership, yet still appeal to academic readers interested in the intersectionality of popular culture and theology, ethics, patristics, and cultural studies in social power, violence, race, disability, and gender.

Other Details:

For the purposes of this volume, the following are considered part of the canon:

Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013)

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)

Better Call Saul (2015 – present)

The official AMC “web shorts” published on YouTube for Breaking Bad, El Camino, and Better Call Saul

Some potential chapter topics are:

Walter White and Jesse Pinkman contrasted with Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita: a study in Dharma and Karma

“I am the one who knocks”: Retributive Justice in an Amoral Universe

Moral Sympathy for the Devil(s): A character study of Gustavo Fring and Walter White

The Judges (Shofeṭim) of the Hebrew Bible as Reimagined in Breaking Bad

Winning by Losing: Self-Sacrifice as Sanctification

The Anti-Proverbs of Ecclesiastes and the Survival Wisdom of Breaking Bad

Disability Studies and Flynn: Brokenness and Blessing

Cancer, Death, Grief, and Apocalyptic themes in Breaking Bad

A Marxist Theological Critique of a Blue Sky Meth Utopia

“The wages of sin are death”: a Character Study of Skank and Spooge

Deus ex Machina and the Hidden God

Liturgical Colors and the Color Symbolism of Breaking Bad

Todd Alquist as the Inevitable Consequence of C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man

Feminist Theology on Women, Agency, and Victimization in Breaking Bad

The Death of Innocents

Individual theological character studies: Walter White, Skyler White, Hank Schrader, Mike Ehrmantraut, Saul Goodman, or others

Note: proposals for other topics and traditions are welcome, but the focus needs to be on theological reflection within the Breaking Bad canon

Abstracts should be between 500 and 750 words and should present a basic outline of your potential contribution to the volume and potential methodology. If you make the initial cut, you will be contacted by Drs. Goodin & Tsakiridis. Send an abstract and a CV to theologyandbreakingbad@gmail.com. Final drafts will be approximately 5,000 to 8,000 words, but exact word counts for each article will be discussed at the time of acceptance.

Dr. David K. Goodin earned a PhD in Religious Studies from McGill University in the philosophy of religion, with a secondary area of concentration in Patristic theology. Currently, he is a lecturer for the McGill School of Religious Studies in Montreal, Canada, Professeur Associé at the Université Laval, Institut de Théologie Orthodoxe de Montréal, and an instructor for the Pappas Patristic Institute at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is the author of numerous works on Patristic theology, eco-theology, science and theology, and environmental ethics.

Dr. George Tsakiridis holds a PhD in theology from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and is a Lecturer of Philosophy and Religion at South Dakota State University. He is currently working on another volume in the Theology and Pop Culture Series, Theology and The Americans, as well as editing Theology and Spider-Man. George is also a contributor to www.popularcultureandtheology.com (check out his essay on Fleabag! and Suits).

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