TV’s Counter-Counterculture

Tim Riley argues that we no longer portray drugs as we did in the 60s and 70s. He uses series like Breaking Bad and Nurse Jackie as evidence:

In cable terms, “drug culture” has graduated from free love to grandiose narcissism. Nurse Jackie turns hedonism into a daily grind; Breaking Bad‘s Walter White descends into villainy. …

Jay Leno’s 1984 standup opener put it best: “I know it’s wrong, but when Nancy Reagan says ‘Just Say No,’ it makes me want to shoot up in the gutter and die.” Both Breaking Bad and Nurse Jackie riff on the war on drugs as a kind of mass psychosis we all participate in, incentivizing purer and more violent potions, dealers, and tactics. Across boundaries of race, class, demographics, and gender, these shows portray the resultant drug culture as mass expressions of self-centeredness that, paradoxically, still define our immigration policy and eat at our public health solvency. Professional displays of decency from doctors and nurses (often inebriated), enforced by familial connection (DEA Schrader), now mask a gnawing hypocrisy. Communal purpose has collapsed. It’s Woodstock in reverse.