Audiences turn to dark side for entertainment

In the ’50s, families would gather around the television and root for the good guys in TV shows, such as “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke.”

In those shows, the good guys were clearly distinguished by white hats, while black hats made the bad guys easier to spot. But more than 60 years later, the ability to spot the bad guy in the TV shows has become more complex.

With the ends of “Breaking Bad” and “Dexter” drawing near, the main characters perhaps best represent America’s newfound love for villains. 

More TV shows seem to be adopting the concept of turning the antagonist into the protagonist.

Viewers are tuning in to obtain a new perspective of what it is like in the minds of characters who are normally brushed aside as an afterthought after sure defeat by the heroes. 

Walter White

“Breaking Bad”

AMC

On “Breaking Bad,” high school chemistry teacher Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, discovers he has inoperable lung cancer. It’s not hard to see where the sympathy and support for him originated from. 

But as a way to quickly gain the finances to posthumously support his family after his certain death, White, with the help of a former student, played by Aaron Paul, enters the world of cooking and distributing meth.

White’s success in his new career path could give the impression of glamorizing the world of meth, however, the creators of “Breaking Bad” have done a great job of showing the pitfalls and dangers of the drug world.

Throughout most of the series, the audience sympathized with White and his circumstances, but they also began to see a different side of White – a callous, sadistic and unrelenting side.

As the final season draws to an end, and the more White continues to turn from protagonist to antagonist, I find myself rooting for his capture or death. 

 Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings

“The Americans”

FX

After the first season of “The Americans,” starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, the show managed to not only gain a large following, but also critical acclaim.

The show follows married KGB sleeper cells in the ’80s who create several identities in order to obtain American intelligence to pass along to their motherland.

From bugging and duping the FBI counterintelligence office, to torturing and murdering an FBI agent, “The Americans” not only plays with issues on morality, but also patriotism.

Though some viewers may not root for the failure of the FBI, somehow the duo manages to rally the support for their survival and continued success of inconspicuousness. 

There are several factors which led to audience support, one being that they have two children, both of which know nothing of their parents’ real identities. 

Another factor could be Rhys’ wavering loyalty to Russia, his character seeming to have succumbed to the luxuries afforded to every day normal American life. 

The couple’s marriage problems are relatable and humanize them, but in the end, they are still Russian spies determined to win the Cold War.  

Dexter Morgan

“Dexter”

Showtime

If there was one type of criminal audiences should have a hard time identifying and sympathizing with, it would be that of a serial killer. 

Yet 3 million viewers tuned in to watch the Season 8 premiere.  Sure, Dexter Morgan, played by Michael C. Hall, lives by a code in which he only kills those who have committed heinous crimes. But his vigilante acts of justice still involve taking the life of another human being.

Morgan lives a double life where he is a Miami Metro Police blood spatter analyst by day and serial killer at night.

Still, somehow viewers tune in and empathize with Morgan and root for him to prevail and avoid capture.

Morgan shows a softer side not normally found in serial killers by being a devoted father and brother.

Hall’s portrayal of the loveable serial killer could be the reason behind the support and empathy from the audience. He doesn’t give off the disturbing, creepy vibe that could be found in previous real-life serial killers Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer

 

 

 

 

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