“Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.“
“A glance at the bevy of definitions at user-sourced Urban Dictionary reveals that different contributors think the words possess a wide variety of nuances: to ‘break bad’ can mean to ‘go wild,’ to ‘defy authority’ and break the law, to be verbally ‘combative, belligerent, or threatening’ or, followed by the preposition ‘on,’ to ‘completely dominate or humiliate.'”
Breaking Bad: What Does That Phrase Actually Mean?
“I come from Virginia [and the phrase 'break bad'] is very much southern regionalism, but I thought everybody knew. It means to raise hell. So it’s like, ‘I was out the other night at the bar and I really just tied one on and I really broke bad. Oh man, I just woke up in the back of a squad car…'”
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan
Vince Gilligan was born in Richmond, Virginia and raised mostly in Farmville (about an hour east of Richmond). He won an award for an 8mm film he made as a youth, and received a partial scholarship to attend NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
“Gilligan’s big break came in 1989. Shortly after he graduated from NYU, he won the Virginia Governor’s Screenwriting Competition for a script titled Home Fries, which nine years later would become a film starring Drew Barrymore and Luke Wilson.”
Our Man in Hollywood
One of the judges of that Virginia screenwriting competition was Oscar-winning producer Mark Johnson (Rain Man). Johnson facilitated a meeting with Gilligan and The X-Files creator Chris Carter, who offered Gilligan a freelance opportunity to write for the The X-Files and eventually hired him as a full-time writer on the show. (Johnson would later serve as producer on Breaking Bad.)
Despite seven seasons writing on The X-Files, pitching Breaking Bad was not an easy sell for Gilligan:
“They said, ‘If we bought this we’d be fired. Literally fired. We cannot put this on TNT. It’s meth, it’s reprehensible. Can’t the guy—we’ve got to asked half-heartedly— can’t the guy be a counterfeiter instead?”…People are doing you a service by passing [on your project]. It’s like an at bat in baseball. You’re amazingly lucky in baseball if you bat 300 which is two times out of every three you strike out. That’s the job of the baseball batter. That’s the job of pitching a TV show or a movie in Hollywood. Most people are going to turn you down.”
Vince Gilligan on pitching Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad found a home at AMC and the result after its five-year run was a total of 16 Emmy Awards.
P.S. Traditionally writers with southern roots are steeped in Bible-belt culture even if they don’t embrace the Christian faith.
“Until recently, sin was something the southern writer did not have to send his hero in search of. William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, Robert Penn Warren, and Flannery O’Connor portray characters who choose evil and are blamed for it. The whole southern tradition, Donald Davidson suggests, confronts us with ‘the ancient problem of evil and its manifestations.'” —The Art of Walker Percy: Stratagems for Being, Edited by Panthea Reid Broughton
Here’s another common southern phrase that via R.E.M. out of Athens, Georgia found its way into pop culture. (Actual conversation I once heard in the South, “Girl, you keep dating that boy and you’re going to lose your religion.”)
Screenwriting Quote #190 (Vince Gilligan)
Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus—“The most ordinary conversation in the south has a theological basis.” Novelist Harry Crews
Robin Swicord & ‘Stock Cars for Jesus’
Scott W. Smith
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