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A Crazy Handful of Signs : Breaking Bad, Peirce and Deleuze's Cinema 1

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Breaking Bad is an epic modern day “western” and American family saga about the final tragic years of the life of Walter White – a defeated and put upon high school teacher turned methamphetamine drug king pin and “anti-hero”. In 2013, the Guinness
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  “A Crazy Handful of Signs”:  Breaking Bad  , Peirce and Deleuze’s Cinema 1 . Jonathan cCreedySofia !ni"ersity #“St. $li%ent &hrids'i”(  Breaking Bad   is an e)ic %odern day “*estern” and A%erican fa%ily saga a+out the finaltragic years of the life of alter hite - a defeated and )ut u)on high school teacher turned%etha%)heta%ine drug 'ing )in and “antihero”. /n 0123, the 4uinness 5oo' of 6ecordsna%ed it the *orld’s %ost critically acclai%ed 78 )rogra%%e, and argua+ly %uch of itsun)recedented success can +e attri+uted to its trade%ar', uni9ue cine%atogra)hy and artdesign. /n the follo*ing essay, / *ill analyse its usage of “colour” fro% a series of se%iotic,theoretical )ers)ecti"es. 7he reason it has do%inated %y research is +ecause of %y decisionto study it +y a))lying analytical ter%s +y 4illes Deleuze, s)ecifically fro% his 2;3 te<t Cinema 1: the Movement Image . / shall also +e referring to the A%erican se%iotician CharlesSanders Peirce in this essay since his )hiloso)hy is of great influential significance toDeleuze’s thin'ing throughout Cinema 1 . His creation of tri)artite syste%s is undou+tedlyinfluenced +y Peirce #=hart 011>: ;( - one reason +eing since the nu%+er three do%inates thenu%erological construction of %ost of his co%)le< sign sche%es. 2  /n this essay, / shall focuson a range of ter%s and theories *ithin cha)ter ? of Cinema 1 , entitled “7he Affection/%age”. 7he reason for such )recision is in 'ee)ing *ith conte%)orary research on colour incine%a and tele"ision, *hich is in itself a sur)risingly ne*, esoteric and seldo% studied field. Cinema 1  re%ains a touchstone )iece of research that is inesca)a+le in relation to any %oderndiscussion and de"elo)%ent of theory. “Colour” is of course u+i9uitous *ithin fil% studies, +ut until recently it has lac'ed ade"oted acade%ic tradition of theoretical study, or “follo*ing”. Acade%ic +oo's solelyconcerning “colour” include  If it’s Purple, Someone’s Going to Die #011>( and Color and the Moving Image: istor!, "hoer!, #estheti$s #r$hive  #0123(. Argua+ly, the %ost useful is theedited collection of acade%ic essays in 011?’s %uestions of Colour in Cinema: &rom Paint'rush to Pi(el   *hich has a hea"y e%)hasis throughout on the study of Deleuze. /t isal%ost as if %odern critics are consciously *or'ing together as re"isionists, as Deleuze didhi%self *ith Peirce, to atte%)t to de"elo) a stronger understanding of colour through fresh02 st  century readings of Cinema 1 . / *ill %yself follo* in this ne* critical )ath, +ut *ithadditional literature in connection to  Breaking Bad  . 7he sho* already has a cor)us of acade%ic +oo's including  Breaking Bad: Criti$al )ssa!s on the Conte(t, Politi$s, St!le and  *e$eption of the "elevision Series #0123(, and its +ffi$ial   #012>( and noffi$ial Guides  #012@(are un%ista'a+ly “high+ro*” in their thorough analyses of the sho*. “Colour” theory isa+undant in +oth of the%, and they contain crucial infor%ation concerning *ardro+e and setdesign, do*n to a %eticulous le"el. 7he *riters, art designers and costu%e designers )ro"idedetailed, authoritati"e inter"ie*s throughout. 0     Breaking Bad and -$olour. art design 5riefly su%%arising the sho*’s   stylistic usage of colour, Da"id 7ho%son states in  Breaking Bad: the +ffi$ial Book  : ="en %ore than holding literal significance or %eaning, the use of color in  Breaking Bad   is %eant to e"o'e a )ri%al, e%otional res)onse +eyond *hat )laysat a conscious le"el. B 7he colors hel) the audience understand in si%)le,"isual ter%s the interior life of the character #7ho%son 012>: 20(.  Breaking Bad  ’s art design *or's in accordance to this )rinci)al as it has its o*n colour “syste%”. 7o 9uote =isenstein in relation to fil%s rich in colour %eaning: “B the %eanings’of colour in design are not gi"en, +ut are de)endent u)on the general syste% of i%agerythat has +een decided u)on for the )articular fil%’” #=isensteinE 9uoted in ="erett 011?: 222(.6ecognisa+le sy%+olic %eanings are e%)loyed throughout  Breaking Bad  , ho*e"er certaininter)retations are intended and deli+erately e%)hasised. ulti)le characters in  Breaking Bad   ha"e “colour” na%es. 3  For instance, throughoutseason 2, the )rotagonist alter /hite  *ears suita+ly neutral colours #+eige or 'ha'i say( toindicate that he has a +land and ineffectual life #7ho%son 012>: 200(. 7he a+sence of colour  )resent in his neutral )alate stylistically enforces a negati"e inter)retation indicated alreadythroughout the narrati"e of the “Pilot” #S12 =12(. Ho*e"er, u)on entering into the dangerous*orld of %etha%)heta%ine %anufacture he %a'es a stri'ing *ardro+e change into an acidgreen la+oratory a)ron. Suita+ly, green is unifor%ly associated *ith un)leasant and highlynegati"e e"ents in  Breaking Bad0  7hey include: "iolent acts in"ol"ing a shar)ened )late #“BAnd the 5ag’s in the 6i"er” S12 =3(E see 4uffey and $ootz 012@: 33(, sic'ness #“5rea'age”S10 =1>E see 4uffey and $ootz 012@: ?(, )anic attac's #“5etter Call Saul” S10 =1;(, andthe%es including %oney and greed #“as” S13 =1>E see 4uffey and $ootz 012@E 2;@(. Gater in this essay, / *ill )resent a study in relation to ho* the colour )alates of alter hite andhis +rotherinla* Han' stylistically interact in the e)isode “5lood oney” #S1> =1(. Gilles Deleue, Cinema 1 and $olour in $inema 7here are three “i%age” ty)es in Cinema 1  and they are distinguished se)aratelythroughout the *or'. 7he second, titled “affection” is our sole concern in this essay since it isclosely associated *ith the usage of colour in cine%a. 7he other t*o “i%ages” reference“)erce)tion” and “action” res)ecti"ely, and are not connected to it in the *ay *hich / shallno* illustrate #Deleuze 2;:   i<(. Deleuze, in a Peircean %anner, constructs a tri)artitety)ology in relation to colour, *hich is neatly su%%arised in %uestions of Colour in Cinema :Deleuze su+di"ides colour i%ages into three +asic categories: $ouleur2surfa$e #colour as )lane or surface(, $ouleur2atmosph3ri4ue #colour used to create a )articular at%os)here or %ood(, and $ouleurmouvement #colour as %o"e%ent(#="erett 011?: 22@(.  Deleuze indicates that it is only the third ty)e that is )articular to cine%a, *hich %a'essense +ecause it concerns “colour as %o"e%ent”. 5ut the o"erriding conce)t lin'ing all of the% together concerns the conce)t of “a+sor+ance”. / *ill 9uote this lengthy 9uote fro% Cinema 1  so as to illustrate it %ost accurately, *ithout )ara)hrase. Here, Deleuze +egins toe<)lain its *or'ings in full:/n o))osition to a si%)ly coloured i%age, the colouri%age does not refer to a )articular o+Iect, +ut a+sor+s all that it can: it is the )o*er *hich seizes all thatha))ens *ithin its range, or the 9uality co%%on to different o+Iects #Deleuze2;: 22;(.He continues +y saying that: 7here is  a sy%+olis% of colours, +ut it does not consist in a corres)ondence +et*een a colour and an affect #green and ho)eB(. Colour is on the contrary theaffect itself, that is, the "irtual conIunction of all the o+Iects *hich it )ic's u)#Deleuze 2;: 22;(. Se"eral ideas )resent the%sel"es here. Firstly, and %ost +asically, these i%ages are notfi<ed in their "alues, or “si%)ly coloured” as Deleuze )uts it. 7his challenges our readyacce)tance that *e )ercei"e the% identically. 5ut of course one *ho is colour+lind *ill see“red” differently fro% that of an indi"idual *ithout said deficiency, and ani%als such as dogssee the *orld in +lue and green hues, and so on. 7he %ain conce)t in Deleuze’s 9uote,concerning “a+sor+ance” relates to challenging the conce)t colour sy%+olis%, *hich he doesnot dis)ute +ut instead )artially rectifies in connection to ho* it *or's. 7here is a cor)us of sy%+olic %eanings associated *ith colour lin'ed to innu%era+le ci"ilised cultures throughouthu%an history. For instance, “+lue” is the “ty)ically hea"enly colour” #="erett 011?: 2>1(according to %uestions of Colour in Cinema . Ho*e"er, the  )lement )n$!$lopedia of Signsand S!m'ols  states that it additionally re)resents: “truth and the intellectE *isdo%, loyalty,chastity, )eace, )iety, and conte%)lationE s)irituality and eternity #ozedar 011;: >1(. Deleuze states that colour does not ha"e a fi<ed identity, +ut rather it “a+sor+s *hat itcan” *ithin its gras) on the fil% screen. 7he “affect” of a gi"en colour i%age can %eana+solutely an!thing  , and it does not ha"e corres)ond *ith any esta+lished canonical sy%+olic%eaning to %a'e sense. /ndeed, Deleuze says a colour i%age is the “affect itself”. Ho*e"er, itis nor%ally only one, or t*o, *hich ha"e a+sor+ent 9ualities in a scene at any gi"en ti%e,*hich is a clai%  Breaking Bad   *ill testify in the follo*ing section. hen colours are“do%inant signifiers” #="erett 011?: 223( they al*ays )ossess this uni9ue trait: During theconclusion of the season > e)isode “5lood oney” #S1> =1( this a))lies to the u))er +odyclothing of t*o characters, during a "iolent confrontation in a su+ur+an house garage.  Breaking Bad’s -Blood Mone!. 5S67 )689 and Cinema 1 “5lood oney” is a cli%actic e)isode *hereu)on the secret cri%inal identity of   Breaking Bad’s  )rotagonist is finally re"ealed to his )olice officer +rotherinla*. /ts )rotagonist, alter hite, is at this )oint in the sho*’s storyline running a successful car  *ash co%)any. He has started this +usiness for the )ur)oses of laundering drug %oney earnedfro% his )re"ious “)rofession” as a %etha%)heta%ine 'ing)in, *or'ing out of Al+u9uer9ue, e* e<ico. His +rotherinla*, Han' Schrader is a high ran'ing ASAC officer in the Drugs=nforce%ent Ad%inistration, *ho has un*ittingly and unsuccessfully +een chasing alter for an entire year - fi"e and a half seasons in screen ti%e. alter, to )rotect his identity hasassu%ed the )rofessional )seudony% or %onony% “Heisen+erg”, in du+ious ho%age to the4er%an )hysicist, erner Heisen+erg - the in"entor of the “!ncertainty Princi)al”. /t is onlythrough a chance finding of a )iece of da%ning e"idence lin'ing alter to a%etha%)heta%inerelated %urder, that he concentrates his search for Heisen+erg inconnection to hi%. Han'’s conceal%ent of a trac'er +ug under his car, at an unseen %o%ent during“5lood oney” is his first act of )ersonal sur"eillance of alter. 7his !S5 connected gadgetis )laced during either the third, fourth or fifth day follo*ing the disco"ery of theincri%inating e"idence. Since, it is a %odel *hich records %o"e%ent and stores it into a 4PSreader, the trac'er %ust su+se9uently +e re%o"ed fro% the car and its contents u)loaded to aco%)uter for it to +e useful. Ho*e"er, +efore this ti%e occurs, alter’s finely honed s'illsconcerning self)reser"ation ha"e already alerted hi% to su+tle oddities in his +rotherinla*’s +eha"iour. /n a series of astute deductions, and correctly sus)ecting that Han' is fa'ingha"ing a sto%achflu to stay ho%e fro% *or', alt %a'es the correct )rediction that he isno* sus)ected of +eing the infa%ous drug'ing)in “Heisen+erg” and that a trac'er has +een )laced under his car - *hich he disco"ers late into the night *hilst standing in his dri"e*ay.7his sets u) the action of the scene the follo*ing %orning *hen alt une<)ectedly "isitsHan' *ho is *or'ing on the case in his garage, surrounded +y +o<es of casefiles. Coincidentally, t*o )olice%en are already there in his dri"e*ay deli"ering yet another +atch, sohis car )ar's +ehind the%. 7he scene +egins *ith Han' standing inside *earing a desaturated cri%son shirt,*hilst surrounded +y shado*s. alter is in a %atching crea% Iac'et *ith tshirt. 7hese colour i%ages are “do%inant signifiers” throughout. Dean orris )ortrays Han' as )ossessing astor% of e%otions, and this is *hy the cri%son i%age has the do%inant “affect” of introducing anger, +rooding and intensity into this scene. He re%ains silent, *hilst alt andthe t*o )olice officers con"erse *ith ease and friendliness at the +otto% of his dri"e*ay, *ithan unheard strea% of dialogue. Han' curtly interru)ts yelling at the%: “4uys, you’re still onthe cloc' hereK Get’s goK” and +rea's u) the tal', %ay+e +ecause he cannot sto%ach that his%en are tal'ing to a drug 'ing)in hiding in )lain sight. &nce alter enters the garage, the cri%son “affect” #in this case re)resenting anger, +rooding and intensity( gradually increases in its rate of a+sor)tion. / include a still fro% thee)isode +elo*:  #  Breaking Bad   S1> =. “5lood oney”. /%age courtesy of AC(/ ha"e additionally a))ro<i%ated the layout of the scene in the follo*ing sche%aticdiagra%. 7he colouring of e"erything is crucial to the understanding of “affect” in this scene -  +oth in ter%s of character clothing and ho* the garage is lit. 7he +lazing sun outside is )ro"iding its light since the door re%ains o)en at this )oint in the scene.&nce alt enters, he +egins an a*'*ard con"ersation: AG7: ell, it’s good to see you u) and a+out. HA$: Leah. AG7: Ho* are you feelingM HA$: ell, you 'no*, /’"e +een +etter, +ut...
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