Friday, January 27, 2017

Donald Trump as Walter White

The more I think about Donald Trump, the more I think about Walter White. Trump's erratic behavior, and Melania's too, seem almost senseless, until viewed through the lens of Michel Foucault and his work 'Discipline', about how the revolutionary penitentiary created by Jeremy Bentham actually functions. Then everything falls into place.

The Panopticon is a cylindrical prison, with an unseen observer in a central location. Every cell is visible to the observer, but none can see the observer. Knowing their every movement is visible, prisoners are persuaded to behave.

The Panopticon is a favorite symbol of cinema. District 13 in "The Hunger Games" is an excellent example.

Trump sits completely-exposed the most-elaborate Panopticon the world has ever devised. How can he escape observation and retain any control in such a situation? By acting just like a madman (like Nixon always wanted to do, but never could). Even better, by being a madman (which Trump may be). Just the way Walter White learns to act in "Breaking Bad". Donald Trump shifts between different conceptions of masculinity - family man, provider, businessman, aggressor - just like Walter White does. And Melania attempts to retain control over her space too.

I've been rereading scholar Jeff Pettis' article entitled 'Men in Control: Panopticism and Performance' in "Masculinity in Breaking Bad" (ed. Bridget Cowlishaw), which I think is the best article regarding "Breaking Bad" in like, ever! It may be the best article written about Donald Trump too, even though Trump isn't mentioned once.

Regarding Walter White, Pettis writes:
Walt, rather than regulating himself, gambles on the potential of anonymity. He is able to evade the panoptic gaze precisely by abandoning the conception of the “rational” man projected by Gus – by becoming “madman.” Rather than being ordered, rational, and, in a sum a “cautious man,” Walt becomes a “disordered” man, using poor judgment and gambling on a number of factors to escape Gus’ gaze. By occupying an alternative conception of masculinity, one that appeals to risk, not reason, Walt achieves his freedom.

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