Breaking Bad is, without a doubt, my favorite show of all time. The plot is top-notch, the characters are some of the most memorable in any show ever made, and the writing is superb.
But, after recently watching the show again for the third time, I began to realize that there was a lot more than meets the eye.
Breaking bad has a lot of symbolism and meaning that can easily be missed, and most of it has to do with color. There are thousands of little things that, when looked into, prove how deep this show truly is. From character development to communication tools, the various colors in the show act as messengers, giving a deeper look into how the characters are feeling and how their relationships are developing.
Here is what I have learned about color after watching the show for over 180 hours.
What The Characters Wear Represents Their Mental State
One of the first things that stuck out to me, even with my first time watching the show, was Marie’s obsession with the color purple. For some odd reason, she was always wearing the color purple, drove a purple car, and had purple decorations throughout her house.
I began to look into it to figure out why this was the case and this is when I first discovered the entire color theory that is found in Breaking Bad and how the color wheel represents the current situation at all times in the show. The relationships between characters can be found in the color wheel and the clothing that each character is wearing gives a perspective into what their current situation is like.
To start off the explanation of the relationships between colors, we need to start with the color beige. In the show, beige is used to represent boredom, neutrality, and squareness.
At the start of the first few episodes, Walter is living an extremely boring and bland life as a high school chemistry teacher. His relationship with his wife is boring, his career is uninteresting, and he feels a large amount of mediocracy in his life. This is shown throughout various scenes and the writers made it clear that Walter is not happy with his life.
Throughout these scenes and throughout moments in the show where Walter’s boring life is reflected, he is almost always seen wearing beige while embracing and participating in the mediocracy that he is forced to live in. His car is beige, his outfit is beige, and his entire personality can be represented with beige.
This shows his starting point as a character and once he begins to venture into the meth business, the sight of beige very rarely reappears, meaning that he is starting to live a life that fits his interests.
Using Beige as a starting point to show where Walter begins in his transformational criminal journey, we can then move on to the color green.
In the initial moments where Walter decides to venture into the desert with Jessie and cook for the first time, he takes off his beige clothing and puts on a bright green apron. This is the first time in the show where Walter is wearing green and it is used to represent growth, greed, and money.
But, the initial cooking scenes are not the only ones in which Walter (or other characters) wear green to represent their greed or growth as a character. Here are some other examples:
- When Jessie goes to rehab to fix his drug addiction problems, he can be seen in a green robe, showing his growth from where he previously was with his drug habits.
- In the surgery room that Walter went into when he was going to get his lung cancer surgery, each of the surgeons was wearing green.
- Once Skyler discovered Walter’s hidden bag of money right after their divorce papers were signed, she was wearing green to show her newfound interest in the money that Walter had made.
These are just a few of the many examples in which green is used to represent the aforementioned character traits. There are many more of these and each of them appears in situations similar to the ones mentioned above when growth or greed is emerging.
After the initial Beige phase followed by the recurring green that appears with growth, a lot of yellow can be seen in the show. In Breaking Bad, yellow represents caution, pleasure, risk, and the business surrounding the sale and production of the meth.
Due to these representative qualities and how the show runs, there is a lot of yellow in Breaking Bad. Therefore, mentioning all of the specific examples will take up this entire article. However, I am still going to mention some of the coolest and most obvious ones where you can see how well this color represents the characters when these situations occur.
One of the most notable examples of this can be seen when Walter and Jessie are working in Gus Fring’s lab. As they are in this risky environment, being watched by overbearing bosses and intimidating crew members, they are wearing yellow jumpsuits. This goes to represent the risk involved with working with these people as well as the logistics and politics of the meth trade that they are involved in.
Moving forward, towards the back half of the show when Marie and Hank are at dinner with the White Family and they discover Walter’s copy of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, Marie is wearing yellow to foreshadow the risk involved with the entire situation. This example is extremely notable as Marie often wears purple throughout the entirety of the show (I will explain why later).
Finally, the coolest example of yellow being used to represent risk or caution is when Walter is in the desert burying all of his money. Walter rents a van to bring all of the money out to the desert and the license plate on the van reads “D4DD31”, which is the HTML code for the color yellow.
Each of these examples goes to show how yellow represents these specific traits and how it is directly related to the greed of the meth business as well as the meth distribution process itself.
The most notable and memorable thing about the color blue in Breaking Bad is that it is the color of the product that Jessie and Walter cook throughout the show. It is what makes their product notable and what everyone uses to identify it. Thus, blue is used to represent the meth itself (the production and politics surrounding the meth trade are represented by yellow but the product is represented by the color blue), as well as purity, power, and loyalty.
Starting with the example of the product itself, blue is used to represent the color of the meth that is produced throughout the show. This also goes to show the purity of the product and these two things go hand and hand and create the entire backbone of what Walter White is known for.
This is the most important example of how this color is used, but there are a few more to show the supporting symbolistic traits mentioned above. Here are some of them:
- When Walter gets beaten up badly and is in the hospital, Walter Jr. shows up wearing Blue to represent his loyalty to his father and his pure heart.
- Todd wears blue when assisting Walter in the mobile meth lab. This is the point in which Todd is looked at as a good guy and his purity and loyalty to Walter is shown by the color he is wearing.
- Jane is one of the innocent and pure characters who were negatively affected by Walter's business. She is wearing blue when she dies in her sleep and when she is at the funeral.
I wanted to touch on Orange earlier but I figured that it was necceasry to first mention Blue due to their relationship. In Breaking Bad, orange represents humor and violence.
The most recognizable character to wear orange in Breaking Bad is Hank. Hank is often the aggressive DEA agent who tries to be funny and his relationship to the color orange is the perfect example.
But this color goes a bit deeper and the connections between colors starts to show when you look at orange in Breaking Bad.
First of all, ironically enough, Walter White mentions in the show that he doesn’t like oranges. Blue, which is the color that represents the meth, is on the opposite side of the color wheel from orange. Hank, who works for the DEA wears orange and Walter doesn’t like oranges. It shows that, due to the fact that these colors are opposites on the wheel, they are also opposites in the show.
These connections go even deeper and they are something that I will continue to touch on throughout the rest of this post.
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. As stated by Vince Gilligan, the writer of the show, Marie would be the one to tell herself that purple is the color of royalty, which, coming from her, means that it actually isn’t.
But more important than the connection of purple to self-deception and protection, is its connection to the meth trade itself.
Going off of what I said in the previous section with how the colors relate to each other, Purple is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum from yellow. With yellow representing the meth trade, and purple being it’s opposite, this color shows complete disassociation with what is going on inside the trade. Throughout the show, Marie is one of the only recurring characters who is in no way involved in the affairs between the meth trade (yellow), the meth itself (blue), and the DEA/Hank (orange).
Red is another commonly reappearing color in Breaking Bad and it’s meaning is that of murder, aggression, violence, and the life of a criminal.
Here are some examples of where red is seen in the show:
- In the first season, when Jessie has to dispose of Amelio’s body, he wears red.
- Jesse wears red when he initially meets Tuco.
- At the Mardigal Electromotive headquarters, Peter takes off a red colored shirt and jacket before he commits suicide in a bathroom full of red accessories.
- Hank is wearing a red shirt, instead of his usual orange, when he confronts Walter about the things he has been doing behind his back.
Red is on the opposite side from green on the color wheel, showing how violence and destruction is the complete opposite of the growth and greed represented by green in the show. These color relationships continue and every color is somehow related to one another.
Black is a color that very rarely appears in Breaking Bad, except towards the end once Walter has completed his character arc and has fully become Heisenberg. This color represents darkness, evil, deception, and power.
The use of this color becomes apparent once Heisenberg comes to fruition and begins to take over the life of Walter White. Walter transforms into Heisenberg and the color black takes over all of the colors that were previously worn before.
This color has the most meaning and the most creativity put behind it when it comes to the writing and production of Breaking Bad.
First of all, black is the opposite from White, which is Walters last name. As Walter White becomes Heisenberg, he begins to wear black which is the opposite from the person who existed before this phase.
Schwartz is the last name of Eliot and Gretchen, Walter White’s former business partners. Schwarz is German for black.
Finally, Marie is wearing black in the few episodes prior to Hanks death, which, again, is surprising considering that she primarily wears purple.
But, the irony with the color black in breaking bad is how black falls on the color wheel. Due to the nature of the color, black is, in fact, not on the color wheel at all. Black in naturre is the absence of all color, and to create the color black you have to mix equal parts blue (meth), red (violence), and yellow (the meth trade itself). Once you mix all of these colors, you get black, which is the color that represents Heisenberg.
The meaning and relationship of each of these colors goes to show the amount of depth that Vince Gilligan put into Breaking Bad. The show is truly outstanding and watching it through for the third time has made me realize how many hidden details and acts of symbolism can be found in the show.
Even with this long explanation, there are many more ways in which the colors are related and many other things that add depth to the characters in breaking bad.
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