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Hating Skyler White

I Have a Character Issue


LOS ANGELES — PLAYING Skyler White on the television show “Breaking Bad” for the past five seasons has been one of the most rewarding creative journeys I’ve embarked on as an actor. But the role has also taken me on another kind of journey — one I never would have imagined.

My character, to judge from the popularity of Web sites and Facebook pages devoted to hating her, has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated women. As the hatred of Skyler blurred into loathing for me as a person, I saw glimpses of an anger that, at first, simply bewildered me.

For those unfamiliar with the show: Skyler is the wife of Walter White, a high-school chemistry teacher who, after learning he has lung cancer, begins cooking and selling methamphetamine to leave a nest egg for Skyler, their teenage son and their unborn daughter. After his prognosis improves, however, Walter continues in the drug trade — with considerable success — descending deeper and deeper into a life of crime.

When Skyler discovers what Walter has been up to, she tries to stop him, to no avail. She is outraged by the violence and destruction of the drug world, fearful for her children’s safety, disgusted by the money Walter brings in and undone by the lies and manipulation to which he subjects her.

Because Walter is the show’s protagonist, there is a natural tendency to empathize with and root for him, despite his moral failings. (That viewers can identify with this antihero is also a testament to how deftly his character is written and acted.) As the one character who consistently opposes Walter and calls him on his lies, Skyler is, in a sense, his antagonist. So from the beginning, I was aware that she might not be the show’s most popular character.

But I was unprepared for the vitriolic response she inspired. Thousands of people have “liked” the Facebook page “I Hate Skyler White.” Tens of thousands have “liked” a similar Facebook page with a name that cannot be printed here. When people started telling me about the “hate boards” for Skyler on the Web site for AMC, the network that broadcasts the show, I knew it was probably best not to look, but I wanted to understand what was happening.

A typical online post complained that Skyler was a “shrieking, hypocritical harpy” and didn’t “deserve the great life she has.”

“I have never hated a TV-show character as much as I hate her,” one poster wrote. The consensus among the haters was clear: Skyler was a ball-and-chain, a drag, a shrew, an “annoying bitch wife.”

I enjoy taking on complex, difficult characters and have always striven to capture the truth of those people, whether or not it’s popular. Vince Gilligan, the creator of “Breaking Bad,” wanted Skyler to be 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. But at the end of the day, she hasn’t been judged by the same set of standards as Walter.

As an actress, I realize that viewers are entitled to have whatever feelings they want about the characters they watch. But as a human being, I’m concerned that so many people react to Skyler with such venom. Could it be that they can’t stand a woman who won’t suffer silently or “stand by her man”? That they despise her because she won’t back down or give up? Or because she is, in fact, Walter’s equal?

It’s notable that viewers have expressed similar feelings about other complex TV wives — Carmela Soprano of “The Sopranos,” Betty Draper of “Mad Men.” Male characters don’t seem to inspire this kind of public venting and vitriol.

by Anonymousreply 2601/25/2014

At some point on the message boards, the character of Skyler seemed to drop out of the conversation, and people transferred their negative feelings directly to me. The already harsh online comments became outright personal attacks. One such post read: “Could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?” Besides being frightened (and taking steps to ensure my safety), I was also astonished: how had disliking a character spiraled into homicidal rage at the actress playing her?

But I finally realized that most people’s hatred of Skyler had little to do with me and a lot to do with their own perception of women and wives. Because Skyler didn’t conform to a comfortable ideal of the archetypical female, she had become a kind of Rorschach test for society, a measure of our attitudes toward gender.

I can’t say that I have enjoyed being the center of the storm of Skyler hate. But in the end, I’m glad that this discussion has happened, that it has taken place in public and that it has illuminated some of the dark and murky corners that we often ignore or pretend aren’t still there in our everyday lives.

by Anonymousreply 108/26/2013

I was not aware of this hatred for Skyler. There has been a complaint here and there on DL, but nothing like what Gunn describes.

Shows the depth of misogyny out there. I suspect nearly all the haters are Republicans and nerds.

by Anonymousreply 208/26/2013

I read this the other day and was both surprised and not surprised. It tells you something about our culture when a meth dealer is looked upon as a real hero and someone who stands up to him is eviscerated by some really screwed up people.

by Anonymousreply 308/26/2013

Go to the AVClub, IMDb, TWoP, HitFix and others. You'll see the haters of Skyler.

by Anonymousreply 408/26/2013

Same reaction, R3. I guess they forget that "Walt" killed/participated in the murder of two children among others. Yeah, he's a real folk hero. Only a bunch of wannabe thugs, idiots and losers would cheer him on.

It's Bobby Brady/Jesse James all over again!

by Anonymousreply 508/26/2013

Where are the Jesse haters? Tell me I'm not the only one that doesn't think he's all that interesting.

by Anonymousreply 608/26/2013

Skyler is my favorite character, and Anna Gunn is great. Very sorry to hear thar she's experienced this.

by Anonymousreply 708/26/2013

R3 I thought the same when I discovered all the Skyler hate, wasn't aware these lunatics were directing some of it towards Anna. Honestly I felt like I'd been watching a different show to other people on the internet when I read forums about it. I really like Skyler and Hank now too, I'm pretty indifferent to Jesse and think Walt deserves whatever he gets. Don't understand how viewers can defend his every action when he's done so many terrible things at this stage and half the time it was due to his pride and arrogance. I've actually found him frustrating to watch at times and thought some of his actions were more or less senseless; honestly I thought that's what the writers were going for.

by Anonymousreply 808/26/2013

I don't like the character of Skyler White.

I loved Camilla Soprano, as fucked up as she was, that was an interesting character.

Skyler seems to bring any action to a complete halt.

I hate Betty Draper, but I suspect that has a lot more to do with January Jones' limitations as an actress, than with the actual character.

It's not fair to lump all three in together.

I have no opinion on Anna Gunn herself.

by Anonymousreply 908/26/2013

I love Skyler, I think it is great that she is not standing by.

by Anonymousreply 1008/27/2013

"I suspect nearly all the haters are Republicans and nerds."

I suspect a lot of them are women, who are projecting all their self-hatred and personal issues onto this characters.

Women with internalized misogyny (and/or tiny petty minds) like to express themselves by attacking women who "have" men they find attractive. They like to spend their spare time saying that the SO of an actor, singer, or fictional character they love is ugly, slutty, just plain evil, and totally unworthy of the man they love. It's something that fangirls and Dataloungers have in common.

by Anonymousreply 1108/28/2013

I didn't like the Skyler character in the beginning seasons. She just wasn't that interesting. But in the past couple of seasons, she has become really complex, and now she is one of my favorite characters on the show.

I never watched the Sopranos, so I can't comment on Camilla Soprano. However, Betty Draper was by far, my favorite character on Mad Men until she separated from Don. But lately, she has started to peak my interest again.

by Anonymousreply 1208/28/2013

She better win an Emmy next year for S5E10.

by Anonymousreply 1308/28/2013

This is one of the reasons I've never watched what I call this sub genre of "Straight White Male Antihero" shows. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Sopranos, (OK Dexter is the only one of these I do watch). They all seem to revolve around the glorification of the white male id, which is to say they will have these characters do the most despicable things possible, and still have you root for them. Notice that in these shows there is no room for minority characters and the women, while prominent, are always judged more harshly (as are the actresses who play them).

by Anonymousreply 1408/28/2013

I'm all about Marie.

by Anonymousreply 1508/28/2013

[quote]Notice that in these shows there is no room for minority characters.

You shouldn't be accusing shows that you don't watch of having no minority characters.

by Anonymousreply 1608/28/2013

R11, nobody finds Walter White attractive.

by Anonymousreply 1708/28/2013

I'll admit I used to been on the Skylar-hate juice during the first 2-3 seasons. She said it best when she called herself 'the bitch mother, again' when Walt Jr.'s car had to be returned.

Anyway, I think Skylar will die in the end by Walt's hand somehow. Hopefully, that will give closure to the rabid fans who want the actress dead.

I think she's great and if there's any justice it will be recognised come award season.

by Anonymousreply 1808/28/2013

Remember that scene in S4, I think it was, where Skyler drives to the Four Corners and flips a coin which lands in Colorado twice? I don't think there are any superfluous scenes in this show so I feel like she's going to try to start a new life there. Maybe with the help of Saul's "disappearer."

by Anonymousreply 1908/28/2013

I've always loved the Skyler character and Anna Gunn's acting (remember her on the early years of The Practice as the ADA?).

I simply detested Carmella Soprano in every way.

I agree a bit with R14. And I do love these shows--BB, The Shield, Sons of Anarchy. But part of my brain often thinks, "Notwithstanding The Wire, if this character were a black dude instead of a white guy, a *lot* of people would write him off as a thug POS" (an appellation I see constantly applied to black lawbreakers on news comment sites and message boards).

by Anonymousreply 2008/28/2013

I don't think any of the family members will die.

by Anonymousreply 2108/28/2013

Jesus Christ Marie!

by Anonymousreply 2208/28/2013

I always thought Skyler was tough and smart and Walt's equal. I don't get the hate.

by Anonymousreply 2308/28/2013

I think Anna might be the best actor on the show.

by Anonymousreply 2401/25/2014

I hated her harping and bitching about everything (at least in the beginning of the series, by the end Walter was psycho)

Her overreacting to pot was beyond ridiculous ( just one example)

by Anonymousreply 2501/25/2014
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