'Breaking Bad': Anna Gunn on Skyler hatred in the New York Times

Lots of people hate Skyler White on "Breaking Bad." And why not? She is, after all, a major antagonist for the show's dark anti-hero, Walter White ( Bryan Cranston). However, some have argued that the hatred of Skyler is too extreme to justify. Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Skyler, agrees.

Now she has written an excellent New York Times editorial about the issue.

In her editorial, Gunn points out that, although she has loved playing a character as well-developed and complex as Skyler White, she has gotten increasingly disturbed by fan hatred. She didn't even understand what was going on at first:

"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."

Gunn goes on to say how she never expected Skyler to be popular, what with the blocking of her husband at every turn. Still, the hatred seemed to be too much.

"Because Walter is the show's protagonist, there is a natural tendency to empathize with and root for him, despite his moral failings ... 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."

Viewers have apparently called Skyler every name in the book, spewing anger her way all over the Internet. Unlike many actors, Anna Gunn actually dared set foot in the wilds of the chat rooms to see what was going on:

"[ Vince Gilligan] 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 ... 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?"

Even the actor behind Skyler, Gunn herself, has gotten hate thrown her way. This both terrified Gunn and made it even more obvious how common this is for "wife" characters in beloved dramas -- she cites the cases of Betty Draper and Carmela Soprano as being similar.

Why does this happen? Anna Gunn points to a continuing problem in society about how we should view women who defy basic desires.

"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."

You can read the full editorial here.

Photo/Video credit: AMC