I first started hearing about Breaking Bad when I was around 15, when some of my close male family members were binge-watching it. I knew the basics of what the show was about –– chemistry teacher turned meth cook –– and it didn’t interest me. One additional thing I picked up on were the men in my family’s disdain for the prominent female characters: Skyler White and Marie Schrader.
In June of this year, I started watching Breaking Bad with my best friend, just to try it out, and I was hooked. While I got to know the characters better, I kept remembering in the back of my mind that Skyler and Marie were supposed to be annoying, or hated, or whatever. But I didn’t hate them. I love Skyler’s character. She is smart, strong, and resilient. I was confused as to why these men could hate a character with these qualities. It was then that I realized, the reason these men in my family disliked Skyler so much boiled down to the fact that not only is she a woman, but a woman who doesn’t support her husband’s actions.
Men disliking Skyler is not unique to my family. In fact, it is such a salient part of the Breaking Bad Mandom that the actress who plays Skyler White, Anna Gunn, has received hate herself from Breaking Bad fans because of her character. In an Op-Ed she wrote for the New York Times, Anna Gunn mentions even receiving personal death threats because of the character she portrays.
We cannot ignore the fact that the undeserved vitriol Anna Gunn has received for her character stems from her being a woman. Skyler White defies what is expected of her –– to be an unconditionally supportive wife to Walt, regardless of the atrocities he commits throughout the series. Skyler White, and consequently Anna Gunn, were targets of the hate that men have for women, especially women who don’t conform to the “ideal” of what a woman should be –– submissive, weak-willed, and absolutely devoted to her husband. Had Skyler and Walt’s roles been reversed, would Bryan Cranston have received death threats for his character not supporting his wife?
Skyler White is not viewed as an individual. Her actions and qualities are judged by the degree to which they support or oppose her husband’s actions. It is a fact that Walter White has done more harm than Skyler –– but he is given a pass by the haters because his initial motivation to enter a life of crime was to provide for his family. Walt has the privilege of being judged by his initial intentions. Skyler doesn’t have that privilege, despite having good intentions as well, and despite being the one who “protects this family from the man who protects this family.”
Breaking Bad is still one of my favorite, if not my favorite, TV series of all time. The writing, character development, cinematography, humor, and more are unmatched. I understand being a big enough fan of the show to feel passionate about certain characters, but the hate many men feel towards Skyler and the actress who portrays her cannot be condoned.