Anna Gunn opens up once again about the backlash her character Skyler White received during her time on Breaking Bad. The actress played the wife of chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-dealer Walter White for five seasons and, unfortunately, the criticisms her character received while on the show were often far from constructive.
Since Breaking Bad concluded in 2013, its legacy has endured. Often regarded as the best TV drama of all time (or close to it), the show had a slow and steady following. However, even though the show gained a devoted fan base over the years, many of those fans often complained about Skyler. Shockingly enough, the wife of a meth dealer, at times, took more flack than Heisenberg himself, a man who committed numerous despicable acts over the course of the show. Many saw Walter White’s actions as being evil for the good of his family, and perhaps that is partly true, but the series finale revealed Walter’s own selfish reasons for becoming a drug kingpin, an ending Gunn is thankful for.
Speaking with EW, Gunn recalls some of the more hurtful responses to her portrayal of Skyler White. She tied the trolling of Skyler to the dynamics of power and gender, saying:
“It was very bizarre and confusing to us all. It was a combination of sexism, ideas about gender roles, and then honestly, it was the brilliance of the construct of the show. People did find a hero in Walt, but they wanted so much to connect with him so viscerally that to see the person who often was his antagonist — therefore the show’s antagonist in a way — they felt like she was in the way of him doing whatever he wanted to do, and that he should be allowed to do what he wanted to do.”
Skyler becoming a slight deterrent for Walter’s drug manufacturing, some then perceived Skyler as the misogynistic concept of a “nagging wife,” with sexist remarks labeling Gunn’s character as “shrill,” a “shrew,” and a “harpy.” Safe to say, Gunn was offended by the remarks. At one point, Gunn says she was even forced to defend herself at a convention Q&A panel where someone in the crowd called her character a “b****.” Gunn’s response pointed out the obvious moral disparity between Skyler’s actions and Walter’s, drawing a round of applause from the crowd. Even so, despite the fan appreciation support from the cast and crew, the comments really got to Gunn, causing her to question if the Skyler hate was her fault.
Even after all the rudeness and outright misogyny, Gunn has come to terms with the backlash and is thankful that she was able to see the way that women were still being perceived, “how a wife should be.” She is actually pleased to have gone through it, since it called attention to the toxic ways that audiences sympathize with “monstrous” men like Walter White. Gunn and other members of the cast will be appearing at a Breaking Bad reunion panel at San Diego Comic-Con this year. Though fans still have the spinoff Better Call Saul to explore the world created by Breaking Bad, it should be interesting to take a closer look at how the show has impacted culture in the last decade, and if toxic fans are more sympathetic of Skyler White with time passed.
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