Going Bad and Staying Bad: Crystallizing Dramatic Self Change

Viðar Halldórsson*, Michael A. Katovich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Symbolic interactionists recognize how selves transform for better or worse. When transforming for worse, or going bad, selves often stay bad, owing to societal response. In this article, we examine fictional characters from popular media (specifically, Michael Corleone from The Godfather trilogy and Walter White from Breaking Bad) and a nonfictional athlete (Lance Armstrong) to discuss staying bad as self-conscious choices made by those who go bad. Using Athens' depiction of self transformation and adding the notion of particular trajectories (teleological, immersed, and ideational), we compare and contrast the characters' transformations from noble, or potentially heroic, to unapologetically blemished. Our analogic connection depict patterns of development that stress the fundamental importance of agency in regard to processes of staying bad, even when such agency appears self-destructive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-456
Number of pages25
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction. All rights reserved.

Other keywords

  • agency
  • Breaking Bad
  • heroic failure
  • Lance Armstrong
  • popular media
  • self change
  • The Godfather trilogy
  • trajectories


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