A Note to Skylar Haters:
Breaking Bad’s Skylar White
Ever since the end of Breaking Bad, I have been going through some serious withdrawals. My life was consumed with Breaking Bad for the three weeks it took me to marathon the show on Netflix. Now that my Breaking Bad binge has consummated, I don’t know what to do with myself. I have started watching other shows, but nothing seems to come close to the gut wrenching, tear jerking, horrifying show. One thing I don’t miss, however, is Skylar White. She always seemed to be metaling into Walter’s plans, whether it was cooking meth, dissolving a body or something in between. And I am certainly not alone. We all hate Skylar White. Why exactly do we hate Skylar so much? All Skylar wants, is what is best for her children, and she would do anything to keep them safe. Skylar’s character, however, is threatening. She makes us uncomfortable because she challenges our heteronormative ideals about how a woman, wife and mother are supposed to act.
Anna Gunn certainly agrees. The actress who plays Skylar has experienced the wrath of Skylar White haters. In her op-ed piece in the New York Times titled “I have a character problem,” she describes the fear she has faced as she has received death threats from people who hate her character so much. Its amazing that people would turn to the actress who simply plays a character as the target of their hatred towards the character in which she plays. In her explanation of why this is, she states “Because Skylar 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,” (Gunn, 2013). Boom! Couldn’t have said it better myself! The reason we react so negatively to Gunn’s character is because we are not used to seeing women put up a fight, especially against lead male characters. We are used to seeing women, as Gunn put it “suffer silently,” and “stand by their man,” (Gunn, 2013).
Our collective hatred for Skylar all began in season one, episode two. Skylar comes dangerously close to finding out that Walter and Jesse just killed two members of the Mexican cartel. She makes her way to Jesse’s house and threatens him by telling him that she would call her DEA brother-in-law if he didn’t stop selling marijuana to her husband, which at the time is what she thought was going on between Walter and Jesse. She says, “You stay away from him, or you will be one sorry individual,” (episode 2, 7:18). We see Skylar very early on, intervening in her husband’s affairs and even if she is mistaken about what is exactly going on, she is still overstepping Walter’s authority by establishing to Jesse that she is, in fact, the one in charge. At this point in the show, however, we have already established a relationship with Jesse and Walter. When Skylar intervenes, she threatens the relationship between Walter and Jesse, and we as the audience do not respond well to that. We, the audience, are rooting for Walt and Jesse and Skylar, very early on sets her self up as the antagonist and we love to hate the antagonist.
Another HUGE reason we don’t like Skylar is because she cheated on Walt. Skylar’s attempt to force Walt to agree to a divorce was by cheating on him with her boss. How selfish! Our society plagues adultery as one of the most horrible and selfish things a person could do to their relationship. Brandon Sodhi argues in his blog post, “So, You Think Skylar White is a Bitch,” that Skylar White’s affair was not selfish at all. In season three, episode three, Skylar sleeps with her boss just hours after Walt told her about his drug business and asks her to accept his drug money. Skylar wanted nothing to do with Walt’s drug money, instead she wanted a divorce. All of this boiled down to three simple words, “I Fucked Ted,” (“IFT,” originally aired April 4, 2010). Soon after this episode, Skylar tells Walter that she wants a divorce. Sleeping with Ted was her way of forcing Walter to agree to a divorce in order to protect her children from the destructive life that Walter was subjecting them to. Her motives for her affair were not selfish at all; they were only to protect her children. Interestingly enough, protecting ones children is a trait that we deem ideal for mothers to have. So why do we find it so disturbing and vial that Skylar cheats on Walter in an attempt to protect her children from him? Walt defends his actions by saying that he is “’providing for his family,’” (Sodhi, 2013), when in actuality Skylar is the one providing the safety and security for the family, (Sodhi, 2013).
Women are supposed to be the superior gender when it comes to morality, is that correct? Up until the point when Skylar purchases the car wash to help Walt launder money, she seems to be ne of the only characters with a high degree of morality. She will not accept Walt’s dirty drug money, and she only wants what is best for her children. Yet we still hate her. Then she turns around, changes her mind about Walt’s not so dirty drug money, and purchases the car wash to help launder the money. After all of this, we still hate her. She is no longer the ideal moral compass that we deem a woman should be. Now she is just fickle and selfish for changing her mind and taking Walt’s money. According to Chaney’s article “Why you Hate Skylar White,” “What bothers them is a certain hypocrisy they detect in her, stemming from the fact that she objects to Walt's meth business…yet continues to potentially benefit from all that dirty money,” (Chaney, 2013). So there is it, on top of being a naggy bitch Skylar is also a hypocrite. We don’t like her because she changed her mind seemingly to get Walter’s drug money. Now we feel like she is riding along with Heisenberg’s badass persona all for her own financial benefit.
So basically we hate Skylar because she defies our heteronormative ideals about how a woman should act. She goes behind her husbands back, she cheats on her husband, and she is a hypocrite. Yet we fail to see that in reality, she is only motivated by her love for her children and everything that she has done is ultimately for the benefit of her children. The fact that we have so much raging hatred towards Skylar White is very problematic. This proves that there are still specific gender roles in our, and we feel threatened when people, especially characters on a television show, do not adhere to them. It is import to realize that our hatred for Skylar White, and subsequently Anna Gunn, is an indicator of how much we feel threatened by her character. I encourage you to think about why you hate Skylar and if it truly is as justified as you think it is.
Catlin, S., Gilligan, V., et. Al. (Writers), & Gilligan, V. (Director). (April 4, 2010). “I.F.T.…”
[episode 23].Gilligan, V. (Producer, Breaking Bad. Albacurque, NM: High Bridge Entertainment.
Catlin, S., Gilligan, V., et. Al. (Writers), & Gilligan, V. (Director). (January 27, 2008). “Cat’s in
the Bag…” [episode 2].Gilligan, V. (Producer, Breaking Bad. Albuquerque, NM: High Bridge Entertainment.
Chaney, Jen. (September 5, 2013). “Why
We You Hate
Skylar White.” Esquire: The Culture
Blog. Retrieved from http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/why-you-hate-skyler-white
Gunn, Anna. (August 23, 2013). “I have a Character Issue.” The New York Times. Retrieved
Sodhi, Brandon. (Just 23, 2013). “So You Think Skylar White is a Bitch.” Open Season.
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