Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

'Breaking Bad' Star Anna Gunn Addresses Misogyny Behind Audience Hatred Of Skyler Plus 4-Hour Interview With Vince Gilligan

News
by Charlie Schmidlin
August 26, 2013 8:56 AM
5 Comments
  • |

With last night's episode of “Breaking Bad” drawing the acclaimed show even closer to its visible end, it is a point of pleasure for creators and fans alike to witness beloved characters entering their final scenes, and also reflect upon their series-wide arcs. As Walt's wife Skyler, Anna Gunn has continually surprised in this regard, reacting to her husband's shift into drug kingpin by turns with anger, frustration and sympathy. The response from viewers has been more one-note however, and in a recent op-ed by the actress, Gunn examined her character's vitriolic feedback and what those comments have exposed about the show's dynamic.

Written for the NY Times, Gunn's op-ed lays out the actress' feelings of creative fulfillment as Skyler on the show, but also relays a worrying observation over the course of its five seasons. “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,” she writes. “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.

On the show, Gunn charts Skyler's journey upon learning Walt's secret as “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.” She then views these actions through the show's perspective of Walt as empathetic protagonist, which in turn places the obstinate Skyler as its antagonist—an unbalanced set of standards when it comes to their judgement.

“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?”

Gunn's argument doesn't forgive Skyler's actions—viewers would be lying if they said her actions on the show never made their blood boil. But those instances are the result of many talented people's work, and Gunn is conveying her frustrated experiences as the face of all of them. You can read the full piece over on at the NY Times, and for a truly in-depth look at the show and its characters, check out an epic 4-hour interview from August 2011 with creator Vince Gilligan, as he discusses the journey of “Breaking Bad,” his childhood in Virginia, and his 144-episode stay on “The X-Files” (where he first met Bryan Cranston) (via Dangerous Minds).

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

5 Comments

  • lfnw | August 28, 2013 7:13 PMReply

    I would believe this was a stable argument if it weren't for the times we live in which any little brush of unconfirmed possible misogyny will be taken as such. Oh, god. TV is so fucking over important.

  • tcw | August 27, 2013 5:23 PMReply

    It has to do with male insecurity everyone. Seriously. Look at the relationship between Walter and Skyler over the course of the show and try to discern who is actually levying hate against Skyler and why.
    Men like Breaking Bad; myself included. We relate to Walter on certain levels. In the beginning, Walter struggles with what all men face at one point in their lives: insecurity due to their status and situation and the vulnerability this can cause (whether this feeling is justified or not). The backdrop for such male sentiment is a society that defines masculinity as wealth-, status-, and power-generating, three traits that Walter does not possess at the beginning of the story. Moreover this is exacerbated by his cancer diagnosis. Walter experiences this sense of insecurity and vulnerability very acutely, not only in his regrets with leaving the biotech company while it was a start-up and losing out on a massive fortune that he was partially responsible for but with feeling that his career as a high school teacher does not live up to his potential, his inability to adequately provide for his family, his terminal illness, and, most sharply, his inability - due in part to the aforementioned list - to satisfy his wife and have her respect. When Walter was going through this, Skyler not only reinforced the negative, unfounded feelings that were plaguing him but chose to have an affair with a man who, in her mind, exhibited “masculine” qualities; that is, a man that because of his wealth and feigned superiority (ostensibly for female recognition), fit the profile of masculinity and therefore was a foil to her husband’s inadequacy. Skyler did not support but rather betrayed her husband at this point because he did not live up to a certain standard that she felt she deserved. Moreover, she neglected to acknowledge the genius of her husband because it did not translate into wealth or status. She did not help nourish his potential and instead, by her actions, reinforced the feelings of insecurity, impotence and neglect that her husband was dealing with.
    How many men have felt this vulnerability at some point? Close to all I would imagine. Having to live up to a certain standard in order to meet, attract, keep a woman and the vulnerability he feels when his reality, job, sexual prowess, wealth, status, fall below these standards. That is part of the reason the show is so alluring. The latent characteristics that have gone unrecognized, unrewarded within Walter, suddenly manifest into adventure, wealth, power and influence for him. Men who have experienced the kind of aforementioned insecurity and vulnerability or are currently experiencing it will: 1. immediately love and identify with Walter; 2. immediately despise Skyler. With this explanation, I think it is no surprise that many men, depending on their situation or inability to deal with it, will naturally feel a sharp animosity toward Skyler.
    As Walter begins to evolve and take on “masculine” characteristics (power, wealth-generation, influence, stoicism, etc…) Skyler seems to come back to her husband and support him. Then, when things become overwhelming, when the situation becomes untenable and dangerous for her, she again alienates herself from her husband because he is an inadequate provider, a threat, etc… This, I think, is why Skyler is perceived as selfish and hypocritical at this point. She didn’t want her husband as the humble, terminal, and genius high school teacher and she doesn’t want him as the wealthy, ruthless, maniacal, genius meth lord (understandable). ..
    Okay, had to get a lot of thoughts down quickly not sure it all made sense but had not seen this perspective yet so wanted to share. I will say that Anna Gunn is very talented, a joy to watch, and a sexy leading lady that I hope will continue to be sought after in the post-Breaking Bad entertainment world.

  • Gfr | November 16, 2013 11:29 PM

    Skyler's a bitch, that's all you needed to say. If you want to write a big paragraph full of pretension about how this is due to male insecurity or whatever you can, but, objectively speaking, she is a crazy slut. P.S. men aren't the only ones who hate Skylar.

  • poresa38 | August 26, 2013 9:07 AMReply

    Skyler is amazing and miz understood.

  • poresa38 | August 26, 2013 9:04 AMReply

    like Ethel implied things will end badly on this show.

Email Updates