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by Alison Willmore
August 24, 2013 8:47 AM
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'Breaking Bad' Star Anna Gunn Takes on Skyler White Haters: 'She Had Become a Kind of Rorschach Test for Society'

Anna Gunn in 'Breaking Bad' Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

The New York Times has an op-ed today from an unexpected and welcome source -- Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Skyler White on "Breaking Bad."

In "I Have a Character Issue," Gunn addresses the unreasonable, disturbing hatred that's been aimed at her character by viewers over the show's five seasons, noting that Skyler "has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated women" and that she's been given "glimpses of an anger that, at first, simply bewildered me."

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.

The full op-ed, in which Gunn addresses how the negativity toward the character has also been transferred to her and how she feels that "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," can be read here. Our article on the phenomenon can be found here.

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13 Comments

  • Ronnie D. | August 25, 2013 11:18 AMReply

    She's way over-thinking this; she's just really annoying - it's that simple.

  • JAB | August 24, 2013 9:56 PMReply

    That's a beautifully written piece by Ms. Gunn. It is also deeply disturbing to think that people are threatening her safety.
    I hate, absolutely hate, King Joffrey from "Game Of Thrones", but if I had a chance to buy Jack Gleeson a drink I would.
    Walter White became a truly despicable character earlier in this series than most people think. Anybody who looks up to this character is someone I don't want to share a sidewalk with.
    Stay safe Ms. Gunn.

  • BG | August 24, 2013 2:45 PMReply

    To anyone thinking what Walter White did was "for his family," you'd actually be wrong.
    (Quoting from another source, skysenberg on tumblr)

    "Walter White BELIEVES he is doing this for his family, but the whole point of the show is that his own greed and pride is what really drives his meth empire.

    And it’s all set up in Episode Five of Season One, “Gray Matter.”

    Walt goes to Elliot’s birthday party, and Elliot offers him a well-paying, substantial job at his old company. This job would pay Walt a nice salary, medical benefits and would be safe. Walter refuses the job.

    Episode 5x06, “Buyout,” reminds the viewers of what happened between Walter, Elliott and Gray Matter. Walt took a buyout of $5,000 for his and Elliot’s startup company, Gray Matter, which is now worth billions. With a b.

    If he was really trying to protect and provide for his family, he would have taken the job that would have been safe, paid steadily (and substantial wages) and given him medical insurance.

    His hubris and hunger for power would rather see him earn money by endangering himself and his entire family and way of life.

    After episode five, Walter White is no longer working to support his family."

  • JaySmack | August 24, 2013 12:47 PMReply

    People hate Skylar because she's obsurdly selfish, a hypocrite and doesn't care about cancer-survivor husband. She then turns around and HAPPILY uses the money Walt makes drug-dealing for her own ends. She's a high-horse moralist when it suits her, and gladly taking part in the "crime" when it doesn't.
    There is something very distastefulg going on with this umbrage at Skylar being "hated." As if such a thing were unheard of. Or that it shouldn't be happening. And the reason is clear. Skylar is a woman, and hence immune from being hated, unless it's by another woman.
    God forbid should we finally have a show where the wife is hated instead of the husband/boyfriend.
    Were Skylar male and Walt female he/she would have been written out of the show the first season or subjected to a terrible death as a way to appease the offended audience.

  • Jack | January 9, 2014 5:09 PM

    I am sorry, but when does Skyler "happily" use the money Walt makes? Even though Walt makes billions with his meth cooking, Skyler leads her life according to very humble means by the standards of middle America, let alone of a millionaire. The only thing she does with Walt's money is pay for her brother-in-law's treatment, whose injuries were caused by Walt's involvement with the drug dealing. Skyler, like any other character in Breaking Bad, is not without her flaws, but I find Walt to be much more culpable throughout the series. He takes a series of dubious steps that end up endangering his family just so that he can keep/feed his ego - from turning down Elliott and Gretchen's offer to work at Grey Matters to telling Hank that Gale was probably just a student of Heisenberg's, which leads Hank to re-open his investigation.

  • Richard | August 24, 2013 11:17 AMReply

    I don't like ANY of the characters. Not a one of them.

  • Jack | January 9, 2014 5:09 PM

    *millions, not billions with meth

  • nick | August 25, 2013 6:40 AM

    I couldnt agree more.I watched 3 seasons before i realised i hated each and every character and wasnt rooting for any of them. stopped watching it then and there. Skylar was by far the worst. fuckin bitch

  • Philip Blumberg | August 24, 2013 10:50 AMReply

    I'd like to suggest something that may have been people's first incitement to anger and hatred. Early on, Skylar employs the strategy of going completely silent on Walter. She could have screamed and insisted while screaming that he tell her the truth, she could have taken her son and left right away, she could have done other things, but she does none of these. Skylar goes completely silent. When my mother's father was angry at my mother for whatever reason, he would simply not speak to her, usually for two days. I understand that because my mother had not descended into meth production or lying about cellphones, so that her father's punishment was wildly disproportionate to her "crimes," the serious psychological injury that this tactic inflicted upon my mother made me think of Skylar and Walt. Whether we are conscious of it or not, I think that many of us know instinctively how cruel punishment "going silent" actually is. I (emphasis on "I") hated Skylar because she didn't didn't scream, didn't yell, didn't throw things, but chose to be a silent "bitch" (I think her son's word is accurate). Whatever Walter's crimes were, his suffering was obvious and intense, and we hated this, and we were right. But I came to like Skylar, and then really like her, as the series progressed, and I think this is exactly what Vince Gilligan intended. (And it is of course utterly moronic to hate an actor or an actress for a character they play.)

  • Pancakes | August 24, 2013 10:42 AMReply

    I love this show but I never understand people who hates the character so much.

  • Rerand | August 24, 2013 9:59 AMReply

    It's not the character, it's the actress. I didn't care for her in Deadwood, either.

  • Rey | August 24, 2013 9:46 AMReply

    Oh bullshit. Skylar white is an asshole because she's a coward and a hypocrite. Those two monikers are not gender specific.

  • David klein | August 26, 2013 1:49 PM

    So how do you feel about Walt?