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“It was very bizarre and confusing”: Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn Addresses Misogynistic Backlash to Skyler, Proves There Can Never Be a ‘Real’ Female Character in Hollywood

Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn Addresses Misogynistic Backlash to Skyler, Proves There Can Never Be a ‘Real’ Female Character in Hollywood

Anna Gunn’s portrayal of Skyler White on the AMC drama, Breaking Bad was one that was received with much animosity and reproach. The drama built itself from the ground up to become one of the most celebrated and loved television shows of all time, and its characters equally so. But, while the criminally overcharged Walter White was worshipped, his on-screen partner was vilified for daring to stand in the way.

Anna Gunn and Bryan Cranston
Anna Gunn and Bryan Cranston as Skyler and Walter White

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Anna Gunn Recounts the Vilification of Skyler White

Breaking Bad was perhaps one of the best-written television scripts of all time, and not simply because of its unusual story. The plot swerved with the story to complement it in the best way possible (for instance, the comically bizarre arc that led to the plane crash on top of Albuquerque in Season 2). But out of all the mishaps, intentional and otherwise, the one story that didn’t sit right with most viewers was the morality of Anna Gunn’s character, Skyler White.

Anna Gunn
The backlash against Skyler White proves to be a “seismic shift” for Anna Gunn

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In all her time in the Vince Gilligan AMC series, none of the cast and crew had anticipated the crowd to decry Gunn’s portrayal as the wife of the meth-king. Skyler White was supposed to be the conscience of Walter White’s otherwise cautionary tale. It was a curious turnaround that was shocking and offensive to the entire crew of Breaking Bad when Gunn’s character suddenly became the villain the crowd’s anger was directed at.

“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 White
Skyler White’s descent into darkness in AMC’s Breaking Bad

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What the Hatred Toward Skyler Means For Breaking Bad

For the series itself, the sudden outpouring of hatred toward a morally right character was a sign of the powerful impact that Breaking Bad was having on its audience. An action as simple as serving as the antagonist was driving people to relegate Skyler White to the status of the actual villain in a show where there is no shortage of those around. Anna Gunn claimed that all of it, for her, was “transformative and incredible… so interesting… extremely important… very powerful… fascinating” but these terms merely hide the harsher and hurtful truth that her character and she were the targets of misogynistic backlash.

Anna Gunn becomes the subject of backlash for her portrayal of Skylar White
Anna Gunn becomes the subject of backlash for her portrayal of Skylar White

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Gunn also stated in a 2013 op-ed that the decrying of Skyler White “had become a kind of Rorschach test for society, a measure of our attitudes toward gender.” And while that fact still holds true, the actress goes on to claim,

“Ultimately I realized, this is not about me. This is not about me, Anna Gunn, and it’s really not about Skyler. It’s about the way people are connecting to him. It’s also about the way that people still hold on to, perhaps, older ideas of what a woman or a wife should be or how she should act, or how she should behave. In the end, change isn’t always comfortable and isn’t always pleasant, but it’s good that it was brought to people’s attention and consciousness.”

Breaking Bad and its spin-off, Better Call Saul are both currently available for streaming on Netflix.

Source: Entertainment Weekly