Breaking Bad Symbolism: The Right Way to Use Symbols (2023)

METROotifs are a great way to add extra meaning and substance to a project. Through the use of intentionally placed visual or audio cues, a filmmaker can transform any character, object, place, or sound into something far greater than the sum of its parts. They become representative ideas of a larger issue and can often make a difference when it comes to conveying to an audience what a scene or narrative is REALLY about.

To better understand how themes work and how to use them effectively, let's break down an example full of symbolic meaning: the world of,breaking Bad.


What is a motif in the cinema?

AReasonis a repeated narrative element that supports a story's theme. A subject in a film can be represented in different ways, e.g. B. through physical elements, sound design, dialogue lines, music, colors and symbols. Each motif used will greatly enhance your story once you have done itnarrative meaning.

visual Motivein film uses recurring patterns through props, sets, costumes, symbols, and events to support a story's intended theme.

What makes a good motive?

  • Support the theme of a story.
  • It's a recurring element in a story.
  • Expand your narrative elements

Breaking Bad themes and symbols

motives and theme

Symbolic accessories serve as great building blocks forThey are motivated by cinema. Isbreaking BadThe universe uses countless examples of this, even from the pilot episode.

(Video) Symbols of Breaking Bad - The Painting

Breaking Bad Reasons • First few minutes of the show

One of the first images we see in the pilot is a pair of pants blowing in the wind: an intriguing visual symbol of a clearly chaotic situation.

Breaking Bad Symbolism: The Right Way to Use Symbols (1)

Breaking Bad Themes • Visual symbolism of pants

Shortly after, we see a full-bodied Winnebago flying down a desert highway driven by a madman in his underwear; fulfilled the promise of this symbol. But as the episode progresses, we see the repeated presence of this symbol morphing into something more: Ahimof command Obviously pants in the wind would indicate a clear lack of control in the situation, but let's look at the other story where pants show up.

After finding out he has cancer, Walt accepts his DEA agent brother-in-law's offer to go to a meth lab. While waiting in the car, he notices a former student, Jesse Pinkman, fleeing the scene. What he literally sees is Jesse jumping out of a window trying to get into his pants before falling off the roof. Another moment of chaos marked by pants pics, but what does that mean?

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Breaking Bad Symbolism • Visual symbolism of chaos

Throughout the first act, we get the sense that Walter doesn't feel like he's in control of his destiny. He's a chemical genius struggling to make ends meet, fighting for the respect of high school students, and working at a car wash to support an unplanned second pregnancy.

When she sees a pantsless pinkman escaping from a naked woman's room surrounded by a bust of meth, she sees her antithesis. He sees a young man who, for better or for worse, pursues and takes possession of his desires, no matter what his conscience or the law says. Walt also sees someone who is overwhelmed and barely puts his pants on in time.

In the next scene, Walt chases after Jesse and harshly urges him to give Walt a sample of the deal and takes control of the situation for both of them.

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Breaking Bad Symbol • Walter in der Mall

We later find Walt at a family discount store with his wife, Skyler, and their son, Walter Junior, who has cerebral palsy. He helps his son try on a pair of pants, then notices a group of thugs mocking Walter Jr.'s condition. something the Walter we met in Act 1 would never do.

(Video) How Breaking Bad Brilliantly Uses Color to Tell a Story

Breaking Bad-Symbolik • Big Boy Pants-Szene

The pants may seem like an inconsequential, cosmetic resemblance, but upon closer inspection, each of the scenes in which they appear are linked by a narrative theme: control. Walter believes he is taking back control of his life, doomed by fate and emboldened by his new criminal ventures, he sees himself as a new man; one who controls his own destiny.

In each scene, the pants symbolize a dynamic of control in this action bar, and the recurrence of this symbol develops a motif, a recurring element that points to a theme.

Break bad colors and symbolism

Props, costumes and symbols as motifs.

breaking Baduses a plethora of symbols andmetaphorsEstablish motifs throughout the series and in standalone episodes. Heuse of colorillustrates emotional themes in the characters.

For example: Walt often wears green to represent his greed, perhaps to represent his greed, and Skyler almost always wears blue. Each scene affects colors differently, but each character has a base color that reflects their personality.

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Breaking Bad Farbsymbolik

In Season 3, Ep. 10's "The Fly" Walt becomes obsessed with the presence of a fly in his lab and insists that work cannot proceed until the pest is eliminated. Jesse is wary of Walt throughout the episode, asking him to rest and begging him to go home and stop work, but Walt refuses.

The fly hunt alone might be a metaphor for Walt's perfectionism and determination, but there's more going on.

(Video) Breaking Bad Hidden Details You Probably Missed | Netflix

Breaking Bad Symbology • The Fly metaphor

We focus on the fly many times throughout the episode, often inTomás POV, and is never discovered until Walter, in an exhausted daze, confesses to Jesse that he wished he had died sooner and now regrets some of his decisions.

Breaking Bad Episode "The Fly" • The universe is random

The fly's constant prominence and presence, even after this confession, represents the imminent threat of death and the consequences of Walt's actions, which he knows he can never escape.

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Motif of flies in Breaking Bad

Perhaps the strongest layered motif in the entire series deals with the subject of seeing. The characters, especially Jesse, are often injured in a way that makes it difficult for them to see, symbolizing a lack of vision or blindness to the consequences of actions.

As season three begins, Walt struggles to face the reality that his actions have led to the deaths of innocent people and the downfall of his family, but he refuses to take responsibility for his decisions and soon returns to his criminal pursuits return.

While Walt doesn't have any injuries, the poor eyesight is reflected in his windshield, which was badly damaged twice this season.

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Breaking Bad Themes and Icons • “Restricted” view

Another great visual motif is brought to life with the symbolic accessory of a teddy bear eye. We first see the bear, missing an eye and with half his face burned off, swimming in a pool like a cold in season 2.

(Video) BREAKING BAD: The Religious Symbolism that Inspired the Show | Everything EXPLAINED

As the season progresses, more details about the picture are revealed, and it turns out to be the wreckage of a plane crash indirectly caused by Walter.

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Pink teddy bear breaking bad symbolism

In Season 3, Ep. 1, "No More", Walter finds the bear's eye in his pool filter. Soon after, his brother-in-law Hank, his DEA agent, shows up to help Walt get his things out of the house as a result of a marital breakup, which Walter adamantly resents. In a tense moment, Hank grabs a duffel bag full of illegal drug money and Walter tries to snatch it from him. Walter broadcasts the moment with a joke, but it's close.

Later in the same episode, Walter drops the eye under his bed just before Skylar shows up and demands a divorce, citing Walter's secret activities. He confesses to being a drug dealer and vows to quit in hopes of getting his family back, but fails and incriminates himself in the process.

The Eye keeps popping up in moments of transition and consequences, whether it's when Walter receives compensation or when an outside force saves him. The eye suggests that someone is looking at it, and it becomes the representative of God's eye; watch in the hope that he will change his behavior, but wait and see if he doesn't.

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Breaking-Bad Symbolism • Cartel killers

We see him again in Season 3, Ep. 2, "Caballo No Nombre" when Walter is being hunted by two cartel killers. While waiting for Walter to get out of the shower, the killers find the Eye on a bed and pick it up just before receiving a call from their ally requesting that Walter not be killed.

Breaking Bad Themes • Cartel assassin scene

He reappears again in Season 4, Ep. 1 when Walt goes missing and Skylar breaks into his apartment looking for clues. The scene signifies a more direct involvement in her criminal behavior, which she has so far avoided entirely, and with the eye of God staring at her, we as viewers know that she will be brought to justice.

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(Video) Symbols of Breaking Bad | The Birds in the Desert

Breaking Bad Symbolism • God looks down allusion

Visual storytelling offers many ways to hide additional meanings in a narrative. Understanding why and how to recognize them is the first step in learning how to use these opportunities in your own work. Hopefully these examples can provide helpful hints to get you started.


Using props to enrich the narrative

Now that we've seen how motifs work, we hope you gain a better understanding of how to delve deeper into themes or subtexts in your own stories. You may also have developed a new appreciation for how to strategically use props and other symbols to do this. Consider learning more about how props affect narrative by examining how they work in other films and TV shows. In the following article, we look at some top examples of how iconic vintage accessories have brought their stories to life.

Next: Iconic Movie Props →


What is the symbolism in Breaking Bad? ›

Fly Motif In Breaking Bad

Perhaps the strongest layered motif in the entire series deals with the theme of vision. Characters, Jesse in particular, are often injured in a manner that hinders their eyesight, symbolizing a lack of vision, or a blindness to the consequences of actions.

How Breaking Bad brilliantly uses color to tell a story? ›

Skyler's blue represents loyalty and peace, while Schrader's red represents violence and anger. Partners who are loyal to Walter White receive money (represented by green, a mixture of blue and yellow), while those who oppose him are met with violence (represented by orange, a mixture of red and yellow).

What does yellow symbolize in Breaking Bad? ›

Most of the time, the colour yellow in the show is associated to any person or part of the meth business, ranging from meth kingpin, and Walt's boss, Gustavo Fring's chicken shop business 'Los Pollos Hermanos', which has yellow uniforms, to Walt's hazmat suit that is donned during meth cooking.

What does ABQ symbolize in Breaking Bad? ›

This episode ties in together the titles of the other 3 episodes which also had the cold open of the teddy bear, which, when adjoined, reads : "Seven Thirty-Seven" - "Down" - "Over" - ABQ, with ABQ being the abbreviation for Albuquerque, and '737' the flight model number of the Boeing that went down.

What is the symbolism of purple in Breaking Bad? ›

In Breaking Bad, Purple is primarily worn by Marie and it is used to symbolize protection, self-deception, and complete lack of involvement in the meth trade. Marie often wears the color purple to show her self-deception. Throughout the show he often tries to convince herself that she is somebody that she isn't.

What does Walter symbolize? ›

Mama's quote about Big Walter symbolizes the power and disappointment of dreaming the American Dream that continues to be deferred: "Seem like God didn't see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams--but He did give us children to make them dreams seem worthwhile."

What does Marie Schrader purple symbolize? ›

Throughout the series, Marie is almost always shown wearing the color purple, which creator Vince Gilligan explained is symbolic of her being misled; for example, Walt and Skyler were deluding Marie about who was behind the drug business.

What does Walter White color symbolize? ›

Vince Gilligan explained that white represented a vanilla, bland version of Walter, and while he initially wore a lot of beige and khaki colors, we see him start wearing green more often, which shows us his evolution as a character.

What does the spider symbolize in Breaking Bad? ›

Todd keeps the tarantula, and it reappears later in the season. As a fan on Quora points out, the tarantula serves first as a visual nod to Todd's psychopathic tendencies and later, becomes a living reminder that the characters can't escape their pasts.

What does the teddy bear in Breaking Bad Symbolise? ›

The bear itself is considered very symbolic in Breaking Bad. It has been said to symbolize the consequences of Walt's actions, or his loss of innocence. It also appeared to foreshadow Gus Fring's death two seasons later; an explosion would leave him with burns almost identical to that of the bear.

What does the desert symbolize in Breaking Bad? ›

The Western desert resonates within the American cultural imagination as the home of the mythical frontier with its masculine values of rugged individualism, self-reliance and freedom. Breaking Bad uses this archetypal imagery to reflect Walt's single minded pursuit of these ideals throughout the series.

What does Jesse Pinkman represent? ›

“More so than Walt, Jesse represents the paradox that lies within: a deep desire to be good — a desire whose influence he doesn't even understand — weakened by circumstances that thrust him out of that cocoon.”


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