Officials at the New Mexico city of Albuquerque are planning to unveil bronze statues honoring the two main characters of Breaking Bad, the popular TV show about a chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer and starts to distribute crystal meth with a former student to secure his family’s financial future.
The statues, portraying protagonist Walter White and his sidekick Jesse Pinkman, were commissioned in 2019 by the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, as a way to “give something back” to Albuquerque, according to a news release from the city’s government.
Gilligan, who also created the spin-off series Better Call Saul, donated the statues along with Sony Pictures Television and hopes they will attract “busloads of tourists” to Albuquerque, which serves as the setting for both shows and the related movie El Camino.
“Over the course of 15 years, two TV shows and one movie, Albuquerque has been wonderful to us,” Gilligan said.
But not everyone celebrated the news of the statues. On Twitter, users criticized the decision to erect statues commemorating fictional drug dealers who committed murders to protect their business in a city with a notorious history of drug trafficking and high rates of deadly overdoses.
“They’re erecting statues in honor of characters who were meth dealers, addicts, and murderers in a city known for rampant meth addiction and drug problems,” wrote one user on Twitter. “wtf is going on in the world.”
Another user said that although the show had “amazing performances”, it was “still amusing to see such beloved, um, meth makers, get this tribute”.
The statues, made by sculptor Trevor Grove, will be revealed on 29 July at the Albuquerque conventioncenter. Those scheduled to attend the ceremony include Mayor Tim Keller, Gilligan, the series’ two main actors – Bryan Cranston, who portrays White, and Aaron Paul, who plays Pinkman – and executive producer Peter Gould.
Breaking Bad ran from 2008 through 2013, chronicling how a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer turned into a meth-dealing kingpin with the help of an ex-student to pay for his medical debts. More than 10 million people watched the finale of the series, which over its run won 10 Emmys and earned another 48 nominations.
Data from New Mexico True, the state tourism department, shows tourism increased after 2011. Numerous Breaking Bad tours have also popped up in the city to offer tourists the chance to visit some of the show’s locations, including the supposed homes of White and Pinkman as well as the fast-food restaurant owned by antagonist Gus Fring, portrayed by Giancarlo Esposito.