The television series, Breaking Bad, is quite good. It is a melange of cliches and stereo types presented with a pretty cool set of hooks for viewers, with tension and conflict coming obvious scenarios, yet wrapped up in an unlikely protagonist who is at once a painfully beta man, while molting, excruciatingly, into a bad ass. That is very simplistic and indeed deserves to be spelled out better because, for television, the kaleidoscope of faces we see the man wearing are very well done, as are the segues between them. But this isn’t a program critique so I have to fight the urge to make it one.
This guy is a chemistry teacher, a nervous supplicating man who knows his subject well and has a passion to share his knowledge but few real takers in his classes. At home he has a disabled teen, a bunch of over due bills, and a wife that has that look permanently etched on her face…the one that is skeptical, critical, corrective, and a little bit sympathetic when she looks at her husband.
When the man discovers that he has cancer, and a book-end is set on the far edge of his life shelf, he gets very motivated and determines that it will be him, and him only, who selects the books will fill the remaining few inches of shelf space remaining. Crime, action, life and death, these all inform the unfolding of the story. But there is something else. Walter (the man’s name) gets some game.
Early in the show, when he has stayed out past his normal home arrival time a couple of evenings, his wife begins to express her displeasure with him. Just that morning she had scolded him for using the wrong credit card for purchasing copy paper “for the family”. He had subsequently experienced some things that cannot be called congruent with the normal suburban school teacher life as he tip toes into the life of meth production and sales, and as the wife begins to lecture him during an OB Gyn appointment, he calmly says “I want you to climb down out of my ass and stay out”. Needless to say she lacked only the resultant mark it would leave as she appeared to have been struck with a 2″x4″.
That was his first move in his game. We are given a read on how good a move it was when, later that night as he lay down in bed beside her, late again….very late, and she began to verbally wag her finger at him, he shifts himself until he is laying behind her, both on their sides when suddenly she says looks shocked and says, “Walter! Is that YOU?” Well, “YOU” is clearly her spontaneous pet name for Walter’s “special purpose” (see “The Jerk” for definition). Another slight shift of position, a gasp, and the curtain falls leaving us having to assume, and assume we do, that the rest of all that went pretty well for Walt and his purpose.
These things all happen in the first few episodes. I have many more yet to watch as I am only finishing season one. I cannot wait to see where this unintentional sub-sub plot will go. Of course the tension between them is obvious, and of course it is intentional on some level. But how will it play out? (Those who have seen it feel free to respond, I am not worried about spoilers) Regardless how it plays out it prompted the question that motivated me to post this. The question is, is there a correlation between game level and what is left to loose so to speak?
The PUA is a perfect example of not being concerned with losing. That is the frame from which he must operate. It is deeper than fundamental. He mustn’t care a bit about rejection, he mustn’t put more than the few moments an interaction takes at risk, and if rejected he moves along having lost just that, a couple of moments. In fact he would even count those moments as gain because he learned something as a positive, he took a prospect off the list. Its a numbers thing.
What about the married guy? What’s he got to lose? If he even considers that question at all, is he really gaming? Doesn’t that thinking somehow make him pathetic? If Walter didn’t have cancer as a back drop, or some other horrible factor that fits the -she can’t do anything that’s gonna hurt me worse than this, what have I got to lose?-template, would he be were he was? Would he, under heavy fire from tracer rounds designed to illuminate his supplicating face, would he simply roll over and make his special purpose his prerogative and take what he wanted? If he’s tried to wallow and accommodate and then have make up sex, how lucky would Walter have gotten?
His game would have been solitaire on the coffee table next to
his bed the sofa.
As I have stated before, regarding game, my position has been that there are some tools with utility in marriage, but game itself, the full Monty, has no place there. In this example I think I found a way to illustrate that. I’m pretty sure the gamesters themselves would balk at calling the select application of a few communication strategies a true display of game (cue bright light and chorus “Ahhhhhhhhhhh” ). For sure another round of fascinating pontification-palooosa regarding the definition of game would ensue. From it would not come any defense of the idea that a man doing that is any kind of real game aficionado.
However, Walter is married and he loves his family dearly. Indeed he has a lot to lose under normal circumstances. terminal lung cancer is not a normal circumstance. He lost, like the basketball team down by 30 points with a minute or two left to play, Walter is running down the clock. If there was a player on the court that he maybe wanted to send a lasting message to, he may go ahead and let that elbow slip. It will not change the outcome of the game at all. But in a strange way, in Walter’s case, he may actually end up with a better marriage. He may live the last two years of his life in a home where things are more naturally ordered than anyone he knows or has ever known. His family will appear to be in outstanding shape. He could have the respect of his wife, his kid, his neighbors friends and family, and at his funeral really great things could be said about him.
Something about battles and wars and winning one and not the other. How does that work?