An Open Letter to Breaking Bad and Flannery O'Connor

It's not you, it's me. I get that. I totally get that you guys are brilliant and challenging and that people love you. But I don't. I just can't. You guys are huge bummers and you make me want to drown myself in the bathtub to escape the futility and pointlessness of this existence and that is NOT how I see the world. Therefore, I just don't think we should hang out anymore.

Oh come on guys, don't look at me like that. Plenty of people love you. But they'll have to explain to me why, because I DO NOT GET IT. And I feel like I should. Miss O'Connor, I'm a Catholic and an English major. Mr. Bad, I have a generally geeky sensibility. I am supposed to love you guys.

And I've tried, heaven knows I have. I watched three whole episodes of you on Netflix, Breaking Bad, on the recommendation of all the people but specifically this person. And while I absolutely agree that you show realistic consequences for evil choices, I cannot fathom how anyone could watch your credits rolling and think, "Wow, I'm glad I spent my time watching those meth guys learn important life lessons about never dissolving human bodies in hydrochloric acid in a second story bathtub. Whew, what a mess. Now, off to bake some cookies for the kids."

Maybe you don't glorify the life of a drug dealer, but you show it in all its horrifying detail, and those three episodes will be quite enough for me, thanks.

Miss O'Connor, I tried even harder with you. I have read your complete stories, and each one plunged me deeper and deeper into a funk that I recovered from only by reading the entire collected works of Jane Austen. (Oh, the happily ever afters . . . so nice.)

I even took a whole seminar on one of your stories. I left that class convinced of the depth and brilliance of your symbolism. But also feeling very embarrassed that apparently I am the only person in the world who doesn't feel like her Catholic faith is enhanced by reading stories about how if you murder a guy who is wearing a gorilla suit and steal the suit for yourself it will not necessarily make you more popular. Or how it's hard to get along with your family on a long car trip, but you should try, because maybe your car will break down and you'll all totally get murdered. Or how you can chase a turkey dead, but probably someone will just steal it from you.

I get this feeling that you're trying to teach me that we're not meant for this world, that we're not supposed to quite fit here, that everything should feel a bit off, a bit raw, a bit unfinished, because our true home is in the next world. But while I believe utterly that heaven is where my soul will finally find fulfillment, I cannot help but love this world too. And you do not reflect my experience of it.

It's the same issue, I guess, that I have with the Catholic mom bloggers who seem to suffer their lives so much. I have my good days and my bad days, but I live with an overarching experience of the goodness of my silly little life. It doesn't seem hopeless and meaningless and bleak to me. It seems filled with love and the consolations of my faith and my family.

And, as I've written about before, when I read those doomsday blog moms, I want to help them. I want to fix them. I want to help them to change how they look at the world and their vocations. I want to help them to make their kids mind. And I feel helpless and uncomfortable when I can't. It's even worse when I have to feel that way about characters who are fictional (and, mostly, murdered) and who are therefore beyond the reach of my helpful blog posts about parenting techniques.

Both of you, Breaking Bad and Flannery O'Connor, give us truth and gritty realism and consequences. Apparently, people can read you or watch you and escape from the laundry piles and dirty diapers of their own lives and into your worlds of corruption and betrayal and death, so much death.

But for me, you don't make me feel edified and empowered, you just make me feel confused and icky and bummed out. I don't like it. As Catholics, we believe in happy endings. We believe in the happiest ending of all. So stories that end with their characters still stuck in the miry clay feel hollow and unfulfilling and only partially true to me.

I've stood there nodding in agreement with everyone else for too long. It's high time somebody stood up and said, "Hey, that guy's just naked." It might as well be me.


p.s. If you get a chance, please forward this to Tolstoy and Lana DelRey. Thanks.