Open Forum Friday: Why Do Breaking Bad Fans Hate Skyler White?

Skyler White in Breaking Bad

I think it’s fair to say that with the final episodes of Breaking Bad currently airing on AMC, there is a lot more criticism and discussion surrounding this TV show than any of the movies that are playing in theatres right now. Last weekend, actress Anna Gunn sparked a new debate herself with an op-ed that she penned for the New York Times entitled, “I Have a Character Issue.” In the piece, she expressed concerns over the fact that so many of the show’s fans seem to despise her character and have even started to transfer some of their hatred to her personally. It’s true, this does seem to be a common sentiment among fans and some have taken it to extremes. The question is, where is all this hatred coming from?

Clearly part of the problem is that the show is set up to make you identify with Walter White as a protagonist, even though he is doing some pretty questionable things. Skyler, his wife, is in direct conflict with his secret life of crime, the “cool” side of Walt that viewers love. Anna Gunn, however, speculates that this has more to do with the fact that people “can’t stand a woman who won’t suffer silently” or one that could be considered Walt’s equal. I don’t know if it really goes that deep… I really think it’s more a case of viewers being unable to see Walt as a villain. What do you think? Are men unable to accept women who challenge the usual gender roles in TV shows and movies? Should Skyler White haters be labelled misogynists or is Skyler White just a poorly written, uninteresting character? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.

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  • bobbee87

    I’m a woman and I really disliked the Skyler character (not as much as I despised the Rita character on Dexter though). The actress was fine, the writing of her character was the problem. We were never allowed to really see things from her point of view. She was used as a plot device and nothing more. We know the writers had time to more fully develop her character but clearly just chose not to bother. There was a lot of stuff that could have been compacted to allow for that, for example the extremely long story arc of Jesse’s house becoming a crack house ( a whole lot of time spent ordering pizza). They had time to develop a strong, sympathetic female character and the writer’s simply chose not to, so for them to later whine that it is the audience’s failure, is disingenuous at best.

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  • Allan53

    It isn’t because we’re misogynists, or because she ‘gets in his way’. And yes, Walt is pretty immoral. But even when she has valid points (which she usually doesn’t, based on the information she has), they always make sure to present them in the worst possible way, and show her being a huge hypocrite: annoyed her husband vanished for two (?) days? As far as she’s aware, he had a fugue state in reaction to the combination of massive drugs he’s on, plus the intense stress of *being given a painful, long and expensive death sentence*. And even if she doesn’t buy the fugue state, she can’t deny the massive stress he was under. And even if she’s still annoyed (reasonable, if a bit non-compassionate), passive-aggressively going out all day, every day, probably spending a great deal of money that the family does not have, is not a mature or sympathetic response. Encouraging their son to deny the name his father gave him is just unforgivable: despite my loathing for the naming of children after their parents, saddling them with the moniker ‘Junior’), that’s just such a slap in the face to those parents that agreeing with it, let alone encouraging it, is just unbelievable. Then she smokes while she’s pregnant, risking serious health issues for the totally innocent child: say what you will about Walt, but at least his customers choose to indulge his product. He doesn’t hold them down and jab it into their veins. An unborn infant is the prototypical innocent victim, as it has literally done nothing and is totally at the whims of others, something you can’t say as easily of most drug addicts. And finally, the main issue with comparing her to Walt? Walt *is not portrayed as being right*. Sympathetic, to be sure, understandable, but morally shakey at the best of times, and often outright evil. Skyler, in contrast, is portrayed as ‘the voice of morality’, with the implication that we’re supposed to sympathise with her.

    Saying someone is good because someone else is worse shows the moral reasoning of a Spice Girl. Walt may be bad. Skyler is an awfully written character without the depth of the paper she’s written on who does nothing but complain, make literally everything about how she’s been wronged (even Walt being diagnosed with cancer…somehow), do her best to emasculate her husband in their sons and others eyes, and is utterly incapable of understanding someone elses perspective, actively attacking them when they refuse to grasp hers (which is difficult since she makes little rational sense at the best of times).

    And that, in short, is why everyone hates Skyler.

  • Allan53

    One character being morally worse does not better-written another character make.

  • DonutZ4Free

    The reason why I hate her is because she is the mastermind behind all of it. And no one sees it. She is the one who puts the hit on Jesse, she tries to kill Walt, not because she wants to “save” her family, but because he is the last one standing in her way of getting out of it all with the money. The first time I watched it, I hated her for being that annoying no-good woman that every show has. The second time I could appreciate her because she lives in fear of Walter. The third time I started to realize that she is the one manipulating Walt. She tells Walt that they need more money, but at the same time she makes clear she doesn’t want him to cook anymore and get out of it all. This is the reason why Walt is killing/manipulating everyone he has met out there. She has the chance to call the police on him every minute she is alone, but she doesn’t. Why? Because she wants more money. When Hank finally realizes that Walt is Heisenberg, he calls Skyler to that restaurant. The only thing she cares about all that time is if she is under arrest or not. She doesn’t cut Walt because he had something to do with the dead of Hank, she cut him because he is the last one standing between her and freedom. She wanted Walt to kill Jesse, not because she thought her family was in “danger”, but because she knew that her money would be in danger. She even sent Huell and Kuby after Ted, despite knowing that it could end bad. She manipulated Saul, she used some highly illegal methods to get the carwash, she even started to threat Lydia. If you really look at the facts and the way she really reacts to certain circumstances, you see that she knows exactly what she is doing and why she has to do it.

  • h347h3r f347h3r

    LOL!!! “Before she starts acting evil..” When exactly did she start? I thought she was pretty awful the whole time. Even before Walt went on the ride-along with Hank, she was pushy, self-centered, and controlling. She didn’t even respect him enough to let him speak for himself, and treated him like a child. When she suspected something other than cancer was going on with Walt, instead of clearing the air like an adult and doing what she needed to to protect her kids, she goes passive-aggressive, starts playing mind games, disappearing, refusing to say where she’s going, and as a bonus, poisoning their baby with cigarette smoke.
    Between Skyler’s penchant for embezzlement fraud and money laundering (Walt didn’t get her into that, she’d been cooking Ted’s books as well as sleeping with him, long before she got involved with Walt’s business. That’s why she had to steal from Walt’s cache to get the IRS off Ted- she was already looking at prison time in her own right for her role in Ted’s scam), and her sister Marie’s love of lying, shoplifting and larceny, and the way both sisters could turn it around on a dime, deny any and all wrongdoing and play the innocent, finger-pointing victims, I kept hoping for an episode in which we could catch a glimpse into their dysfunctional childhoods, so that we could have some explanation for their damage. The hypocrisy of the scenes in which Skyler and Marie are together criticizing Walter for “thinking he can get away with” cooking meth, while they continue to get away with their habitual theft and fraud, was pretty hard to bear. Also, it was Skyler who just had to have that gas station, and defrauded a Romanian immigrant out of his life’s work. Huh…maybe you’re right; Maybe she is just like my mom. lol

  • h347h3r f347h3r

    Also, while both Walt and Ted engaged in illegal activities, Walt was providing a product and being compensated for his services in a voluntary monetary exchange, while Ted was stealing.

  • h347h3r f347h3r

    I was pissed when Walt decided to quit the business and move his family to safety, then went to get the money they’d need to start over, but Skylar had taken it and given over half a million dollars to her white-collar criminal boyfriend to get him off the hook for felony tax evasion…thus forcing Walt to stay in the business she supposedly wanted him to quit. Now, had Skylar really feared for her own and her kids’ lives, and had taken the money and run with the kids to relative safety, I could have sympathized with her position…but she wiped out the family funds to give a huge lump sum to her boyfriend, who in turn used it to get a new car…smh

  • h347h3r f347h3r

    Yes, as you said, there are several clues that Skylar has long been a overbearing, controlling pain in the ass- like I bet Walt’s mother was,too, and Walt is tired of not making his own decisions in life. They’re in financial trouble, Walt works two jobs while Skylar doesn’t work, yet she still makes all the decisions about the finances- she trades bullshit on ebay “I sold it for $9 more than I paid!” but nags Walt about $15 he spent at Staples. Walt didn’t tell Skylar (or his mother) about his cancer diagnosis at first, because he knew as soon as he did, she’d try to take control- and she did. When Walt wouldn’t immediately agree to what she wanted his treatment to be, she calls an intervention to bully him into doing it her way, and has a showdown with her sister Marie, screaming “How dare you?!!” when Marie dares say that Walt’s treatment is his decision. Walt almost chose death over letting Skylar continue to run his life, but instead went ahead and accepted treatment. Continuing to cook meth was, ironically, the one way he maintained any control over his own life.

  • h347h3r f347h3r

    I thought the same thing. Zero female roles of any consequence. Lydia was the only female character that was interesting in any way, and only because she was quirky. All the other women were either boring, annoying or both, and utterly dispensable. Like the antithesis of OITNB. hehe

  • AugustineThomas

    I’m talking about at the very start of the show, before she sleeps with Ted and starts helping to launder the drug money.
    She’s far from perfect, but she clearly loves Walt and wants the best for him. It’s as much his responsibility to act like a man as it is hers to treat him like one.
    Anyway, I’m not arguing that she was perfect, just that she was, on the whole, a good, faithful, decent wife who just wanted Walt to be honest and normal. If he had the same ethics, they both could have helped each other recognize their respective human shortcomings. (I’ll remind you that hypocrites can be right.)

  • h347h3r f347h3r

    I agree with you for the most part. Honestly, I didn’t like her any less after she slept with Ted, etc. From the start, I most disliked her for being self absorbed, domineering and condescending.

  • Anna

    I completely agree and am so glad someone also noticed that Walt has been manipulated by his wife and she treated him like a child his whole life. What about the scene when she is giving him his “birthday present”, but cannot even stop playing a game on the internet or even look him in the eye during the act. She has no passion for him obviously. Also when she comes up with the idea of Walt having a gambling addiction and makes up the whole story on the spot, and then coaches Walt how to tell Marie and Hank up to the precise moment when she will start crying on cue. Walt was shocked that she can be so coldly calculating. To me Walt’s transformation from an overqualified Chemistry teacher, who could have been a noble prize winner under better circumstances, an emasculated husband, a terminally ill man and a person who never did what he really wanted to a badasss who takes shit from noone, is respected for the genius that he is and is able to provide for his family. I am leaving aside for a moment the obvious fact, that what he does is illegal and he starts to commit murder. But I maintain that he always had his heart in the right place – he never once lost the love for his family, and the only reason he lost his love for Jesse towards the end was a series of miscommunications between the two. In any case, the final episode shows that he did not turn into this terrible monster of a person, but rather realized how far away from his goal he turned out to be in the end – estranged and hated by his entire family and Jesse, who is family in his own eyes. If anything he was delusional and started to enjoy his power too much, which led him to commit those horrible crimes. And so in the final episode he finally sees himself truly for what he has become and that makes him want to amend somehow all the horrible things he has done. He manages to leave the money to his son, and the fact that he uses the very same people that he despised so much in the beginning and he blamed them for his career failure only shows that he does not care any least bit about his ego any more and just wants to make sure his family gets the money, even if they will never know it’s from him. The fact that he leaps to save Jesse from the shooting at the end shows that he always cared for him, even when Jesse wanted to kill him and turn him over to the police. It is hard to call Walt the bad guy, I see him as the dilusional guy who started out with the best intentions and started slipping on the way and becoming something that, if he truly was aware of what he was becoming, he would have stopped long ago. And Skyler was always the way she was, controlling, bitchy, selfish and if she was truly the loving and supporting wife from the very beginning, Walt would not be in the position to wanting to “break bad” in the first place.

  • Kendall Powers

    I have problems with her as an actress, as a person, and as a character. Regarding her as an actress, she’s simply mediocre, and the fact that she allowed herself to gain so much weight between seasons (thus destroying the sense of continuity) is very telling about her level of dedication and commitment to the role.

    Her as a person? Didn’t have a lick of a problem until I recently read her op-ed. (I’m revisiting the show in its entirety for the second time.) What a delusional and abrasive load of trash she wrote. I AM a strong and successful woman, and to say that my issues with her character are actually some flaw in MY character is beyond insulting. And flatly wrong. And presumptuous, audacious, and ridiculous. I have issues with the character because the character is simply awful; annoying, bland, grating, and with a backbone of jelly. Backbone of steel? What planet is she living on for her to think that Skyler White is an example of a strong woman?

    Regarding the character, it’s already been said, but I will repeat some of the major points:

    Skyler is obnoxious and overbearing. The talking pillow intervention scene, her manipulation of the Schwartzes to pay for Walt’s treatment in spite of the history between them and Walt. Going to Jesse’s house to primly say, “You will NOT sell my husband pot.”

    She’s insanely self-centered and childish. Making Walt’s cancer all about herself (the crybaby disclosure at the bbq with her sister and Hank, the group therapy session shortly after the disclosure). Passive-aggressively bitching to her sister, before finding out about the diagnosis, that she had to *gasp* paint the baby’s room, despite that Walt is working two jobs and she does nothing except pretend to write short stories and resell crap on ebay.

    The hypocrisy of her affair.

    The greediness that became evident when she failed to sign the divorce papers – papers the SHE had written up – just because she saw the stacks of money.

    And worst of all, she’s written as a dunce. I will never forget the line when, after the doctor notes that the tumor has shrunk by 80%, she actually says, “Wait, I’m confused. Isn’t 80%… a lot?” I mean come the eff on. What sane, rational person, takes this to be an example of a strong woman?

    I could go on and on giving examples of why the character is utterly detestable. It has nothing to do with my attitudes about women in general, unless it is to the extent that I think every woman should strive to be a better person than Skyler on basically every level.

  • moto hellogoto

    Well said! You said it better than I ever have could. I’m a man and when I say i hate this character I know there are people who think I’m just a misogynist jerk, But If she were a man I’d dislike her just as much for the reasons you have mentioned.