Since August 11 of this year, two words burned themselves into our brains: Breaking Bad. The critically-acclaimed, award winning television series began to release its final episodes earlier this month, and it has yet to disappoint. If you’re familiar with Breaking Bad, then you might know about some of the fan reactions to show’s lead female character, Skyler White (played by actress Anna Gunn).
Anna Gunn recently wrote an Op-Ed for The New York Times titled “I Have a Character Issue.” In it, the actress addresses the hatred some fans have for her character, and she explains that in her opinion (as in my own), there really is no reason to hate Skyler!
Skyler is the wife of Breaking Bad protagonist, Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher turned meth dealer. With each episode, White becomes more and more criminal, and Skyler is understandably furious at Walter for risking their family's safety; she's offended by his mounting lies and manipulation.
The underlying truth to the dynamic between Walter and Skyler, is that while Walter is the actual bad guy in Breaking Bad, Skyler gets all the heat for doing all the right things, for standing her moral ground and guarding her children from danger.
In the last month, I’ve noticed a valid and encouraging demand for more strong female characters. While there have been many fierce females appearing in media over the last decade, Skyler White seems to be one of the strongest female characters we've seen in a while. Gunn emphasizes her strength when describing how Vince Gilligan, show creator, envisioned Skyler:
“A woman with a backbone of steel who would stand up to whatever came her way, who wouldn’t just collapse in the corner or wring her hands in despair. He and the show’s writers made Skyler multilayered and, in her own way, morally compromised.”
After looking through this description, I can’t find anything wrong with Skyler. She’s a product of good, nuanced writing.
So why is there still so much hate for her? Is the general audience finding problems with her because she antagonizes Walter for continuing a life consumed by crime? Does the vitriol towards Skyler’s consistency spring more from her being a "bad" wife for not supporting her husband's every move? Is Skyler a pesky nag who should stay out of her husband's business? Or is she just a strong woman, doing the very best she can under difficult circumstances?
There’s no doubt that viewers have expressed similar feelings towards other TV wives; just take a look at Betty Draper from Mad Men, Carmela Soprano of The Sopranos, Lori Grimes from The Walking Dead. These female characters are all complex and strong-willed, but none of their male counterparts seem to be the subject of such widespread venting and venom.
Are you watching Breaking Bad? What do YOU think about Gunn's portrayal of Skyler White? Love her or hate her, let us know in the comments section.
Thanks to The New York Times