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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Actress Anna Gunn, Who Plays Skyler White on 'Breaking Bad', Is Not Here For You Haters

You may remember a post I wrote a few months back discussing the inexplicable level of hatred spewed at "Mad Men" character Betty Draper Francis, specifically from female critics. The often vile comments don't just stop with Betty; the relentless bemoaning has spread across the board with the many complex female characters that we should feel honored to have graced our TV screens lately, including Skyler White from "Breaking Bad." 

All I hear online is how "annoying" these characters are, or why they are "always in the way" or "not supporting" the efforts of their men (who, just in case you don't watch, run the gamut of philanderers/identity thieves to methamphetamine moguls/murderers). But yet the women remain the bane of viewers' existence, not their crazy (ex)husbands. 

Yesterday, actress Anna Gunn (Skyler White) wrote an amazing column for the New York Times in response to the "venom" her character has received from viewers and what it may say about how we place female characters in general. 

She writes:

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?

Hold on, can we take a minute to reflect on her last question? Because that is an excellent observation of what may be a realized point for Skyler.

But I digress. Gunn goes on:

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.

She also reveals that some of these hateful comments too often move beyond the fictional character to the actress herself, who writes that someone posted that they wanted to kill her because of Skyler. Seriously? It's a TV show, people. Calm down, crazies. 

Despite all the negative hoopla enrcircling her character (and unfortunately herself as an actress), Gunn respectfully took the high road and concludes the piece with a reflection of the way we perceive ourselves and female characters as a whole:

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.

If it had been me, I would have probably thrown in  a few four-letter words. So bravo to this remarkable actress who took a stand and called out the haters. 


s. said...

Wow, what's annoying here is that relentless need to throw all the people who don't like Skyler into 'misogynists' bag.

Gunn doesn't seem to understand that people hate her character not because she is not submissive but it's because she is a grade A bitch and she was from the start - even when Walt was just a teacher and family man she kept emasculating him on every step of the way, acting like a control freak. She smoked and ate crap when she was pregnant, punishing her own, defensiveness, unborn child and she slept with a guy and said she did to her dying husband who at that stage was doing everything for his family.

Not to mention that when it suits her and she needs the money, she is more than happy to take it.

It's not about hating women, it's about Skyler. I think Gunn is doing a wonderful job in the show but what she wrote shows she doesn't understand why people dislike her character, just as all of those who claim those who don't love Skyler are women haters. I love strong female characters but I hate women who are emasculating their husbands and acting like victims when they keep going back and forth, acting like complete hypocrites.

37paddington said...

Skylar is a richly layered character and yes, Wally's equal in brilliance. She's taken the only path that seemed open to her. I think she's fabulous! That scene last season when Walt brings Jesse home for dinner and Skylar is just so though as she pours herself wine is genius acting. And hello? Is anybody calling Walt out for his ish??? He's been an asshole to Skylar and his family, not to mention he's a ruthlessly manipulative murderer at this point. Why isn't anyone upset with his behavior? So yes. I hear you.

Candice Frederick said...

Skyler isn't the problem. Her critics are the problem. Too often critics come down so harshly and inexplicably on these types of female characters. You never know how you would react in a situation until you're in it. And I think Skyler is handling her rather difficult situation a lot better than many would. She is disgusted, scared, helpless and strong all at once. While she might have made some mistakes (understandable so given her unorthodox predicament), she remains authentic. I can't agree with you on your emasculating comment, like at all. Especially since Walter has used her like a puppet at times and is annoyed when she doesn't heed his every word. Oddly enough, I don't believe Gunn ever used the word "misogynists" in her op-ed piece, but I wouldn't say that's far off base at all. Everyone can root for Walter White and Don Draper and their victims receive all the hate? How is that fair?

s. said...

If only she was consistent - but she takes advantage from Walter's 'job' whenever it suits her. She is a hypocrite. In the beginning Walt was a loving, caring husband and she kept controlling, nagging and bitching to him all the time.

I hate Don Draper, I think he is a colossal asshole. But Walt began as a good man and I definitely kept rooting for him in the first season.

The idea if you hate Sky you hate women is quite frankly, a disgusting generalization. It has nothing to do with the gender, just the specific character. If Skyler was a man and she did the shit she did in the show and acted the way she acted my feelings toward that character would be exactly the same.

Candice Frederick said...

it's a pattern specifically with female characters that should be noted here. Skyler could be seen as flawed as Walter is but many people root for Walter and few root for Skyler, as if to say she's the reason Walt is who he is. That's false. Skyler is dealing with a A LOT and handling it as best she knows how, which makes her authentic. I never saw her as nagging or controlling, but I can see how others can, I suppose. I see it as someone who was trying to push her husband, who was definitely more lackadaisical about things than he should have been. But that's subjective.

Daniel said...

I was really impressed with her take on this whole situation. What is it with AMC and their shows creating such vitriol for the wives.

Brittani Burnham said...

I have to agree with Sati on her reasons for hating Skylar. It's not that she won't "grieve" quietly, it's because she's made some pretty catastrophic mistakes, the biggest being her little money laundering scheme. That's when I stopped trying to reason with Skylar. I'm a woman. I don't hate women, I LOVE strong female characters. I just don't think Skylar is one of them. At least not in seasons 1-3.

Though I have to say, I absolutely LOVE Anna Gunn's portrayal of her, and I really do hope that Skylar and her children all come out of this okay.

Candice Frederick said...

i think Skyler's reactions, and even her mistakes, are indicative of the character she is. I couldn't even imagine the kind of situation she's been forced into. I don't know if I would act differently in that situation. Also, are women not allowed to make mistakes on screen? All women in reality always make the best decisions? I think not. I think her portrayal is authentic.

Brittani Burnham said...

Everyone is allowed to make mistakes on screen. Lord knows we all do in real life. I just don't think she makes mistakes because she's a woman. I don't think gender really has anything to do with Skylar's character. I wouldn't like her if she was a man either.

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