I can’t wait until Sunday night. I have been eagerly anticipating being swept away into another world — looking forward to the past.
Sunday night is the premier of Better Call Saul, the prequel to Breaking Bad. Aside from looking forward to revisiting rich (and hilarious) characters from one of the truly great tv shows, and getting to watch the art that is the combination of great writing, directing and acting, there’s something compelling about a back story.
We love prequels–the stories written after, but that take place before, the stories we already know. Think: Godfather II, Wicked, Gotham, to name a few very successful prequels. These are the backstories of characters whom we originally met as adults in other stories, with qualities that made them distinctive. The prequels give us the stories of circumstances and relationships that gave rise to those distinctive qualities and formed those characters.
When watching or reading a prequel we already know what will happen years later. Many prequels, however, are less satisfying than the works that preceded them. It is a formidable task to re-create all the elements that worked so perfectly in preceding forms. It can also be confusing to talk about later works that are supposed to predate earlier ones, because in real life, we presume that the present includes all the knowledge and wisdom and information possible to make our circumstances the best possible.
In real life, we’ve seen a blowback to those who seem to live in a prequel to 2015. The 2015 outbreak of measles proves that vaccinations have been one of the crowning achievements of science of the 20th century. The measles vaccine has been available, albeit in different forms, for 50 years. Measles and other illnesses that once regularly killed, have been mostly eradicated with the use of vaccinations. But vaccinations only work if everyone uses them. In the 21st century, some have chosen to live a prequel–a recreated fiction that does not include the actual (scientific) knowledge that exists to date, but without considering consequences to others (who live in the present). The current outbreak suggests that those who have not vaccinated their children have actually contributed to this current outbreak of measles.
I understand the fears and questions relating to vaccines and other medical interventions. We have learned from medical mistakes (e.g. thalidomide, among others) and the concerns that we over use antibiotics and other medications and interventions are valid ones. That doesn’t diminish the essential value of antibiotics and vaccinations. They are life saving, and in the 21st century, their use and antiviral use, as well as other immunological interventions will evolve to be more individualized and precise so that they can be more effective.
When we read and watch prequels, we are always aware of what will ultimately happen. We have the most up to date knowledge and wisdom that the characters in the prequel don’t have. I am looking forward to watching the prequel of the character who looked like the ultimate ambulance chaser with his Better Call Saul ads on Breaking Bad. In real life, I am looking forward to the 21st century sequels to 20th century medical breakthroughs, and encourage those who seem to prefer the prequel, (those who have rejected vaccines), to consider their choices in the context of public health and safety. We already know the consequences.