Westminster College Professor, Dr. James Rhoads, “Falling Hard for Breaking Bad”

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Westminster College Professor “Falling Hard for Breaking Bad”

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – “I am not in danger; I am the danger,” said Walter White, the main protagonist played by Bryan Cranston in season four, episode six of “Breaking Bad,” a widely-watched television show.

Taking a deeper look at the hot commodity that took the world by storm, Dr. James Rhoads, professor of political science, and his co-authors, began their research with the question: “Why are viewers so obsessed with this show?”

In his publication, “Falling Hard for Breaking Bad: An Investigation of Audience Response to a Popular Television Series,” he explores this question. Rhoads studied what characteristics create a show as compelling as “Breaking Bad” to be so popular. The authors of the study were interested in what viewers found so appealing about the series.

Rhoads and his co-authors used Q Methodology to study subjective viewpoints, which puts primacy on the views of the respondents made through a rank-ordering technique known as “q-sort.” Respondents who were dedicated fans of the show were asked to rank-order a set of opinion statements about a particular topic, in this case, their view of the television series.

“I have had an interest in popular culture and its intersection with politics for some time now,” said Rhoads. “I regularly teach courses in the connection between aspects of popular culture and politics, including The Politics of Rock & Roll and Political Films. Additionally, I introduce Q Methodology to students, many of whom choose to use Q in their capstone research.”

Rhoads’ investigation uncovered three basic orientations among viewers to the series. Following his interpretation, a concluding discussion underscores the significance of these findings methodologically and for the larger context of contemporary American life.

The first group sees “Breaking Bad” as a morality play as viewers find the show to be a vehicle to reflect upon the flawed nature of humanity. The second group of “Breaking Bad” viewers are “character identifiers,” as they appreciate trying to place themselves in the predicaments the characters faced each week. Finally, a third group viewed the show much like a critic would; seeing the show as good entertainment, but critical of the hype that enveloped the show.

For more information about this research, contact Dr. James Rhoads at [email protected] or (724) 946-7255.

About Westminster College…

Founded in 1852 and related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Westminster College is a top- tier liberal arts college and a national leader in graduation rate performance, according to U.S. News Best Colleges guide. Westminster is also ranked as the number one school providing the “Best Value” in Pennsylvania” by Smartasset, selected as one of the “Top 25 Best Private College Values in the Northeast,” was honored as one of “The Best 379 Colleges” by The Princeton Review, and is named to the President’s Honor Roll for excellence in service learning.

Nearly 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students benefit from individualized attention from dedicated faculty while choosing from 41 majors and nearly 100 organizations on the New Wilmington, Pa., campus. Visit www.westminster.edu/advantage to view “Advantage: Westminster” A Strategic Plan 2010-2020.



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