Breaking Bad: Gus Fring – Man as Corporation

Breaking Bad: Gus Fring – Man as Corporation


There’s something especially chilling
about someone who approaches murder not as a moral problem,
but as a logistical one. Here, Breaking Bad’s Gus Fring carefully
and deliberately changes into a hazmat suit, brutally murders his most faithful associate
and then just as calmly washes up. Gus’ motivations aren’t passionate,
they’re purely logical: Victor has to die because
he was spotted at a crime scene and that might compromise
Gus’ business interests. Gus needs to teach Walter and Jesse
a lesson. Two birds with one boxcutter. [Well? Get back to work.] Before we go on, we want to talk a little
bit about this video’s sponsor — Skillshare. Skillshare is a superb online learning community
with thousands of classes about everything. Bitcoin trading, playing guitar,
stop-motion animation. Click the link in the description below
to get 2 months access to all classes for free. If Walt’s evil superpower is chemistry,
then Gus’ superpowers are optimization and efficiency. [Now thank me, and shake my hand.] With Gus, Breaking Bad explores the questions,
what would it be like if drug dealing was treated like any other business — and what happens when a person
lives his entire life like he’s a corporation? [Ahh es el businessman, Que bien, que bien.] The always professional Gus is
the opposite of what we might expect when we think “drug dealer.” So Gus becomes a foil to
the other drug dealers we get to know in Breaking Bad — especially Tuco, Hector and even, Walter. [Animals.] Tuco Salamanca is driven by impulse. [I don’t need your punk ass
to vouch for me!] Every move Gus makes
is calculated to pay off. [I investigate everyone
with whom I do business. What careful man wouldn’t?] Tuco controls his minions
with fear and erratic rage. Gus reads people and manipulates them
with just the right type of positive reinforcement. [3 million dollars for 3 months of your time.] His phrasing here gratifies Walt’s ego,
by emphasizing how important he is, how valuable his time is. [What — what was the offer, if I may ask?] [It’s, uh, 3 million, for three months of
my time.] Hector Salamanca is an old-school drug dealer
governed by rules like blood for blood and family before everything. [La familia es todo.] But Gus recognizes these kind of principles
as ineffective. [This is what comes of blood for blood, Hector. Sangre por Sangre.] The only family Gus seems to care about
are his employees, [Those men outside are my trusted employees.] and even then, still only up to the point
that they help his businesses and aren’t a liability. Like Tuco, Hector solves problems
by threatening his rivals. But Gus, even when baited, remains completely professional, composed [Adding more product will threaten
the reliability of the entire operation.] and doesn’t reveal himself. Hector and Gus are set up as life-long foes
in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul because, in addition to their bad blood,
they’re existential opposites — each seems offended
by the other’s very nature and can’t abide his way of
operating in the drug business. Walter, with his scientific
and reasoned approach, is more similar to Gus,
or so he’d like to think. [I was told that the man
I would be meeting with is very careful. A cautious man. I believe we’re alike in that way.] But Gus knows better. [I don’t think we’re alike at all,
Mr. White.] The key difference between
Walt and Gus is ego. Walt secretly really wants people to see
that he’s finally rich and powerful. Gus never flaunts his wealth or power. [You are a wealthy man now. And one must learn to be rich. To be poor, anyone can manage.] And Gus sees the value in keeping up
humble appearances. After all the idiots and maniacs
we’ve seen, it’s refreshing when we meet Gus, [Can I help you, sir?] and witness his rejection
of old-school thuggishness in favor of a more reasonable,
corporate management style. After all, we the viewers are rooting
for Walt and Jesse’s hardy little start up, so it’s a relief to see it safe for a time
under the wing of a capable parent company. [Your new lab.] In our American context,
this feels like success. But over time, Gus’ character also
leads us to question — how is drug dealing different
from other businesses? And is a corporate mindset applied to crime
actually scarier than the old-fashioned ways? [I need 200 pounds per week to make this
economically viable.] In Gus’s mind,
meth is a commodity, no different from the chicken he sells. He discusses his operation only
in the vocabulary of business. [How much product do you have on hand?] [I have always done business
with certain local manufacturers.] [I don’t believe fear to be
an effective motivator, I want investment.] Professor David Pierson examines
the connection between Gus’ business tactics and neoliberalism. Neoliberalism prioritizes a free market — the idea is that the less involvement
the government has in the market, the better it is for the economy
and for the consumer. Pierson points out that for neoliberals,
crime is an inevitable part of society and it can even be a totally rational choice. In neoliberal thought a criminal is, quote, “a rational economic actor who contemplates
and calculates the risks of his actions.” And who embodies this rational criminal if
not Gus, whose every action is dictated not by emotion,
but by opportunity. Furthermore, Pierson points out
that methamphetamine is just one drug among a class of “performance enhancer”
substances, that “have become both the fuel and the product for the neoliberal fetish
for productivity.” Most products in this class are legal,
like caffeine, energy drinks, steroids, Viagra, and prescribed Adderall — which by the way is very close
to meth chemically. But looking at this list,
it’s clear that meth is hardly the only product
that’s highly profitable and desired, while also being harmful to consumers. And if you think about it,
how different is a typical large company from Gus’ drug empire
in terms of the collateral damage it causes? Even if most major global corporations
don’t trade drugs that directly kill people, many cut corners in ways
that damage lives and the planet. [It’s basic, simple money-laundering,
and HSBC had its hand right in the middle of it.] [Drug cartels themselves, yeah,
you know, in their own words, it is the place to bank.] Look at it this way:
Gus sells two things — one is a popular consumer product
that is targeted at low income populations and with long-term consumption
can contribute to disease and death; the other is methamphetamine. [One taste and you’ll know.] So, through Gus, the show communicates that,
if the first priority is always profit, consumer well-being will always come second,
and so will employee well-being for that matter. By showing us this fearsome
drug dealer businessman, Breaking Bad points out
that the ruthlessness, immorality and harm
we associate with crime are less connected
to the “drugs” part than to the “business” part
of Gus’ operation. [Pollos Hermanos, where something delicious
is always cooking.] So with Gus, Breaking Bad shows the dangers
of the capitalist model, which does undeniably, like Gus,
appear so attractive for a while. Some argue that Gus’s inspiration
for building his drug empire was to avenge the death
of his partner Maximino. Gus certainly is fixated on torturing
the person who killed his partner — Hector Salamanca. And Gus embodies the maxim
that revenge is a dish best served cold — by waiting and crafting the perfect plan,
he maximizes his enemies’ suffering. [Don Eladio, Don Paco, Cesar, Reynaldo,
Ortuno, Cisco, and Luis. Escalara. All dead.] The cold, burning hatred deep inside Gus, this desire to settle scores
that partially drives him, may be a commentary on
what’s emotionally driving the ultra-ambitious leaders of corporations,
too. This clip from the show Billions
supports a similar idea. [Hate is nature’s most perfect energy source. It’s endlessly renewable.] Yet the show doesn’t fully resolve
the mystery of whether this controlled, festering hate causes Gus’ need to succeed, or if he’s already programmed
to seek corporate success, and the vengeance motive
is simply extra fuel. Gus was set on selling meth
before Maximino’s death, [This product is the drug
of the future.] and if his only priority were vengeance he could have had that
cold satisfaction a lot earlier. He poisons all of Don Eladio’s associates
only when the timing is right — when can’t afford to work with them anymore
because the cartel’s animosity toward him combined with Hank’s suspicions
might result in him being found out. Thus the primary motive in this takeover
isn’t revenge, but growth — the goal every corporation reaches for above
all, no matter the cost. In a competition-based marketplace,
a business is considered healthy only when it’s constantly growing,
overcoming competitors and claiming new territories. [I have a very large investment in this. There’s so much overhead that I can’t afford to shut down. Not even for a week.] Clearly, more crystal meth is worse for society, so growth in Gus’ case is a negative
for public health. But the same can be said of many corporations
who are so set on growing that they have no concern for public health,
for the environment, or for whether the world actually
needs more of their product. With Gus’ growth mentality,
Breaking Bad is subtly questioning the values underlying capitalism itself. Gus’ dual nature as a person is also a commentary on the split between
the outward faces of corporations and their true inner operations and intentions. On the surface,
Gus is a benevolent philanthropist and a model citizen. [Gus Fring is a pillar
of our local business community.] He provides jobs and security
for hundreds of people. [My friends, I promise you
that together we will prosper.] But the bottom line with Gus is always
what’s best for business, [I hide in plain sight,
same as you.] and the show highlights the dissonance
between his warm public persona and his cold private mind. [A DEA hero should never have to pay
for a meal at Pollos Hermanos.] To convey this duality, Giancarlo Esposito
plays Gus with small, disconcerting incongruities in his speech and physicality. Gus smiles often,
but his smile doesn’t reach his eyes. [Do it.] Gus’ warm and cordial exterior
reminds us of companies’ consumer-friendly speak in their advertising and PR campaigns, but that down-to-earth rhetoric
is often at odds with their coldly profit-driven agendas. [Yes, the old ways are still best
at Los Pollos Hermanos.] Ultimately, Gus’ two faces
are capitalism’s two faces. At first, we’re fascinated by Gus
and we see a lot of the positive face — there’s his focus on and achievement of
success, his somewhat self-made nature, his discipline, his meticulous organization,
and his amazing work ethic. But over time, we see more
of the negative face, the lethal, cold, inhuman bottom line. [I will kill your wife. I will kill your son. I will kill your infant daughter.] By the end, Breaking Bad shows
the ugly truths of the capitalist mentality through Gus’ character. It reveals the destructiveness
of the “winner-take-all” growth-obsessed mindset —
a mindset that can be traced to many of our crises in recent decades —
the dot com bubble, the financial crashes of 2008,
the Facebook data scandal. And when it comes to drugs,
today’s opioid epidemic was largely brought on by the corporate pushing of oxycodone
for huge profits — the founding of corporate drug empires
that are somehow legal. In the moment of Gus’ death,
his two faces become literal. And his final gesture is
to straighten his tie, a detail which perfectly captures
who he’s become. In his last moments on Earth,
Gus isn’t thinking about loved ones or seeing his life flash before his eyes —
he’s just correcting his outer presentation. There’s a hollowness in this final gesture
that tells us the man inside him is gone. Only the capitalist is left,
driven to the end by appearances and effectiveness — an empty husk of a man
wearing an impeccable suit. [If you have a complaint,
I suggest you submit it through our email system.] Maybe you’re thinking of
creating your own start-up like these two,
but one that’s, you know, legal. If you are, you should check out
Skillshare’s classes on business and entrepreneurship. They’re taught by seasoned pros
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Author:

100 thoughts on “Breaking Bad: Gus Fring – Man as Corporation”

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  • Nice essay. Although you kind of missed the greatest corporate crime – climate crisis denial. Which will dwarf the damge from the tobacco – cancer denial.

  • Phillip Strenger says:

    He actually killed Victor because Victor started cooking a batch without even properly knowing how, wasting expensive resources and proving that he cant stay in his lane. Walt was similar in that regard, but much more valuable to Gus in a financial sense.

  • Phillip Strenger says:

    Gus IS the human embodiment of a corporation. Great PR, always positive and smiling, but mercilessly killing people behind the scenes.

  • How is drug dealing different than normal business? You have to be more careful because it is illegal. It FORCES natural selection within its structure.

  • It wouldn’t have surprised me that when Gus infamously died in the show, he was actually a cyborg ala terminator or something.

  • Peggy Stoute Morin says:

    Gus is all smarts, sophistication and philanthropy, yet he pulls off a clip-on tie like some six-year-old boy just home from church. I was disappointed.

  • Capitalism is meant to exist within the structure of moral society, such as what traditionally has been a Christian society. The problem with someone like Gus Fring is not that he is polite, efficient and capitalistic, but rather that he is devoid of a moral compass pointing to good. This show itself delights in the moral ambiguity of all it's characters which itself glorifies the world view of someone like Gus Fring and is symptom of the general moral and spiritual disintegration of the western world.

  • Downing capitalism…
    I've been watching your videos for a while because I loved Breaking Bad & I thought I liked your channel but after hearing your opinions on toxic masculinity & capitalism along with other bullshit opinions I have to say fuck this channel.

  • LMFAO aderall isn't meth because it has "amphetamine" in it motherfucker the METHYL is what makes the METH so goddamn dangerous because it crosses the blood brain barrier faster google this shit dumbass

  • Just for context, hydrogen peroxide "is very close to water, chemically"… Saying adderol is close to meth chemically tells you nothing significant about it, and serves only to equate two things that aren't the same in your mind. It's called a false equivalence fallacy, used to manipulate the listener.

  • I like the analysis, however there is one important error you fall for about capitalism: It is not "Winner takes all". In an ideal capitalist transaction, both participants are richer after they did it than before (since they both got something they wanted by giving up something they were willing to give up).

    Poverty is the default. In the beginning, no one had anything and we were living on trees. If capitalists really were stealing their wealth, who would they be stealing from if no one has anything?

  • Skillshare doesn't have access to everything I needed has access to things that I don't need about fake jobs and horseshit jobs that pay a lot of money which I would not be proud of cuz they're not real skills real skills involve using your hands and your mind proactively with each other at the same time. Not typing on a computer doing s*** on a computer to sell worthless products to consumers in America who all they do is just buy s*** from Amazon

  • Nautilus Guitars says:

    My God, your economically oblivious commentary is insufferable and borderline embarrassing. I tried to wait it out, but it's become blatantly clear that you're simply using this video as a soapbox for your imbecilic political ideas. We came here for your analysis of the character, not a 10 minute soliloquy of ineptitude .

    Seriously…. "neo-liberalism" is the literal antithesis of what you defined it as. You're talking about classical liberalism. And everything you explained about it shows your isolated and clearly spoon fed ignorance. Where do you people come up with this stuff. I could point out so many inaccuracies and anecdotes presented as facts. It's sickening.

  • Shut the fuck up. I was expecting interesting commentary on Gus Fring (partially pleased on that front, but not much – most of it is simple observation of stuff that's on the surface), not the fucking n-th naive and ignorant criticism of capitalism.

  • I fall in love with his professionalism! His working style and accent of talking superb! I started this series again because of Gus!

  • If Gus Fring from Breaking Bad and Stringer Bell from The Wire had joined forces… They'd be billionaires and no one would blink twice at them. Where Stringer lacks in business intelligence, Gus makes up. Where Gus lacks in brutality and savagery, Stringer makes up. It would've made a hell of a show to see the two characters take over the meth and crack underworld.

  • You crap on capitalism in this video but yet you put out a video on YouTube, sponsored by another company for advertisement. You create a product for consumption and make money off it. His chicken business is a front for illegal activity. That’s associated for a mob mentality not capitalism as a system.

  • metamorphicorder says:

    200 lbs a week is 40 lbs a day at 8hr days and 5 days in a work week. Thats 5 lbs an hour. With two people, 2.5 lbs and hour each.

  • Stick to the show itself, not your random ill-informed economic rants. Or move to North Korea, and see how you like socialism. Silly little girls.

  • Anti capitalist while peddling your show for views/monetization.

    Capitalism is the best model. “Breaking bad shows the dangers of the capitalist model”.

    Oh boy we have someone that didn’t read about the Great Leap Forward or Holodomor.

    Ugh oh

  • Majority of medical breakthroughs occur through capitalist driven motivators such as profit and overall financial success. These advancements from our system are exported to the socialist countries around the world who use our advancements in their hospitals and doctors office.

    But no, “breaking bad shows the bad of the capitalist system”

  • Love the butthurt comments from market fundamentalist who can't handle criticism of their beloved and extremely flawed system.

  • My GAWD….this liberal, feminist, SJW, host is bad. She has to throw in every left wing buzz word she can, whenever she can, and slight any right leaning points about the movie that she can. She just can't help herself. It's nauseating.

  • Ok you bash capitalism and corporations, but this is an illegal product. There is no free market, only a black market. It’s not comparable. 🙄

  • These are the stupidest videos I've seen about B.B. and life as a criminal, please don't encourage whoever's responsible for these anymore. Dislike and skip unless you're into being mentally tortured or you enjoy seeing such a great series being grossly misunderstood and having the context misrepresented by someone who has read a lot but experienced very little.

  • That moment when everyone in the comments is belting shit like "I love Gus Fring" and yet didn't even realize the obvious parallels drawn when you sneakily popped in a Martin Shkreli gif and there is no difference aside from reality vs fiction…

  • This 15 minute excerpt is the best fan excuse for a dope character not having a dope backstory in cinema that I've ever seen

  • This is what I want as a Batman villain. A drug kingpin/arms-dealer without any of the ego or impulsiveness of Two-Face, Penguin, Black Mask, or the Joker. A quiet, coldly-calculating mastermind who's a master at hiding in plain sight.

  • Hey folks this is probably one of the best videos I have ever seen on YouTube. Thank you so much and 10000000% agree with this interpretation and analysis

  • Ser Arrec of the Dreadfort says:

    Capitalism is a force of financial independence, that fuels the American Economy, THEE only economic system that works, so stop trying to club the narrative to death.

  • Richard Armstrong says:

    Gus Fring is the embodiment of evil capitalism and the ruthless efficiency it can entail on that note join Skillshare and sell your soul like I have to my coporate overlords or better yet become your own corporate overlord. On that note why should I trust anything you say in regards to critiquing Gus's personality?

  • The anti-capitalism jabs are quite telling. I wonder, are YOU profiting from your channel? What do YOU do with your proceeds? 🤷🏻‍♀️
    This was suppose to be a character analysis and yet it became a predictable anti-capitalist rant (eye roll)

  • That was the worst explanation of Neoliberalism i've ever seen. Neoliberals say Crime is viable? Bitch what? That professor must have Marx's "The Capital" up his ass or something.

  • Corporations are more dangerous than any drug empire, even if it's not illegal and has corporation running the operation. Why? Because the people are not fooled by economist, politicians or anybody, that the drug empire is good for everybody. Capitalism and communism both will have all the power in the hands of few interconnected people.

    Freedom and free market are the best way to organize society, to a certain point. We can't allow psychopaths and sociopaths to gain power, or they will get it all eventually by having problems of doing all kinds of immoral things to rest of humanity. And also we cannot allow corporations to become bigger than certain point, or the laws of economics dictate what happens, aka the business becomes self driving psychopath that no human can control anymore. And also we have to find method that eliminates the fact that the more money you have, the higher interest you get.

    So there are really big challenges, but also big possibilities ahead. The sad reality is that people are so easy to brainwash through "education" and media. But thank god there are examples in the media that show the truth, and Breaking Bad is one of the best examples.

  • Gus Fringe is one of the greastest villains on TV but they were wrong in making him a Chilean. He got nothing of a Chilean, let alone a Chilean baddie.

  • Now, it's all good, man… But why this University guy David Pierson looks like one of the criminal bosses from the show, huh? 🙂

  • I feel the language used as if what gus became is the logical conclusion of capitalism is a complete false hood. Capitalisms only goal is the voluntary exchange of goods and services for a agreed upon price, to stretch that into you are willing to murder break the law is not only intellectually dishonest its the very definition of a Marxist reading of the situation you guys really missed the mark with this one.

  • Gus in Breaking Bad: "I don't believe fear to be an effective motivator"
    The Dentist in PAYDAY 2: "Fear, as you surely know, is a powerful motivator"

  • Gus Fring is the modern Captain Ahab. Runs a successful, yet unethical, business, only to destroy the whole thing from his desire for revenge.

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