Outside but Within: The Normative Dimension of the Underworld in the Television Series “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”
From the standpoint of the formal legal system represented in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul by licensed attorneys, drug enforcement agents, and ordinary police officers, the underworld is identified with chaos and disorder. The criminals and gangsters portrayed in the plot appear to be excluded, alienated, and outside the boundaries of society. If we look at it from a different angle, we can see that, despite the illegality of the criminal world depicted in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, its members also show abidance by certain rules and codes of conduct that originated within their social groups. Furthermore, such groups also feature a sophisticated level of organization and a set of norms that maintain their social balance. With very few exceptions, the criminals and other deviants depicted in the series conform to certain intra-group expectations and follow a pre-established set of rules that are deemed legitimate within their gangs, criminal networks, and the underworld in general. In short, they are both outside (of the legal system) and within (their own normative order).
Manuel A. Gomez, Outside but Within: The Normative Dimension of the Underworld in the television series “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”, JOxCSLS 2 Special Issue: Law and Popular Culture (2017).
"Manuel Gomez depicts the socio-legal universe of mafias, gangs, and criminal organisations in his Outside but Within: the Normative Dimension of the Underworld in the Television Series ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Better Call Saul’. Manuel reminds us that normative orders emerge from within the underworld, wholly outside the state legal order. Combining lessons from both normative pluralism and law and popular culture, his essay reminds us of the particular sense of right and wrong established in various representations of Italian mafias, including the Corleone family in the Godfather trilogy. His socio-legal analyses include the relevance of private ordering in competition with the state public order and of cooperation enhanced by social connections and multi-stranded ties of family, ethnicity, and common heritage. Manuel investigates the relevance of internal sanctioning, the construction of the sense of justice, and the special role of lawyer Saul Goodman in both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul", Pedro Fortes and Michael Asimow, Guest Editors for the JOxCSLS.