Crystal Meth and the Carl’s Jr. Burger
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Crystal Meth and the Carl’s Jr. Burger

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Blaming a social issue on the negative influences of film and television is nothing new. We have blamed the violence in movies to the violence on our streets and the homosexuality of our men on the Teletubbies. So it’s no surprise that The Telegraph ran a piece naming AMC’s hit series Breaking Bad as the culprit in Europe’s rise in crystal meth seizures in the last few years. But what is kind of surprising is that experts in celebrity and media culture would think that anyone associates Aaron Paul’s A-list Hollywood status to being hooked on crystal meth. Humans are easily influenced but they aren’t (typically) complete imbeciles.

There is no doubt that the popularity of Breaking Bad is related to a rising popularity of crystal meth. A TV show about anything brings it into the mainstream—opening the door for churchgoers and grandparents to be exposed to a dialogue about a street drug they otherwise would probably never have heard of. But does that make it more appealing? It certainly isn’t going to turn Betty Crocker into a friend of Tina’s and the last time I checked, susceptible youngsters looking to act out don’t typically gravitate more toward party favors their parents are in the know about.

I guess Europe is looking to point the finger at something for their sudden boost in meth use—with the Czech Republic, according to this article, acting as the as the source for 95 percent of the methamphetamine batches consumed on the continent. I don’t mean to go out on a limb here but I’d say the majority of the meth out there is being consumed by meth addicts—not Breaking Bad viewers.

But yes, the topic of crystal meth—the existence of the drug and the kind of life that surrounds it—does put it in the ether, at the forefront of our brains, raising our curiosity and triggering our cravings. It’s no different than the hot chick in a bikini biting down on a juicy Carl’s Jr. burger sells their product. The sexy girl—and not a fat pig mowing down on her third bacon double cheeseburger that week—makes it appealing and the enhanced audio reminds us how it sounds when we are eating something we love. It makes us want to go and get a burger—maybe at Carl’s Jr. or maybe some place we like better—and if we are free-spirited gluttons, we do it because hedonism is the American way.

What is important to realize about this unconscious message is that we want to go get the burger because we have had a burger before and enjoyed it or because we are starving and anything juicy looks good. It’s going to be hard to make a happy vegan want a burger now matter how appealing Audrina Patridge looks in gold lamé.

My point is, art imitates life imitates art. There is always a risk of influence, whether it’s a gang bang on The Wire or a Paul Smith button down on Modern Family. We respond to what we see in the movies and in real life, as well as to what we hear from friends and what we read in books. It’s pointless to infer that a social problem may not exist if it weren’t for XYZ; we are imperfect people who either have common sense or not or who are addicts or not. Sure, we can end up like the characters in Breaking Bad—but the show isn’t going to be what leads us there.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.