The Bad Breaks of Walter White: An Evolutionary Approach to the Fictional Antihero
This article investigates the nature and appeal of morally ambiguous protagonists, or antiheroes, through an evolutionary lens. It argues that morally ambiguous protagonists navigate conflicts between prosocial and antisocial motivational pulls. In so doing they present audiences with a window onto the conflicts inherent in human sociality. Working from this premise, the article analyzes the morally ambiguous protagonist Walter White from the TV series Breaking Bad, complementing the analysis with survey results. The article finally discusses critically the role of moral disengagement in enjoyment of stories with morally ambiguous protagonists.
Keywords: antihero, Breaking Bad, Walter White, moral conflict, moral ambiguity, morally ambiguous protagonist, agonistic structure, evolutionary psychology, moral psychology, popular culture
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