Breaking Bad was a very confusing show to watch because at some point, most fans started to root for the bad guys. The main protagonist Walter White morphed from an innocent chemistry teacher just trying to provide for his family into a power-hungry drug kingpin willing to murder anyone who got in his way. But even after Walt “broke bad,” plenty of fans still found themselves rooting for him.
The Emmy-award winning show has a multitude of evil villains to choose from. There’s Uncle Jack, the murderous white supremacist. Or Todd Alquist, the psychotic guy who thought nothing of singing in the car while he had a dead body stashed in the back. The Cousins, Lydia Rodarte-Quayle, Hector Salamanca, Krazy 8, Gus Fring… there were just so many shady characters on Breaking Bad.
And that’s precisely what makes it so strange that the most hated character on the show isn’t a bad guy at all.
Fans had serious issues with Skyler White
While Breaking Bad fans didn’t agree with the antagonists’ actions, they could at least respect their methods. But for some reason, when it came to Walter White’s wife Skyler, they had zero compassion or sympathy.
Unfortunately, fans seemed to forget that actress Anna Gunn was really just an actress playing a character and didn’t deserve the hatred she got by playing the role. Neither she nor producers could have predicted that Skyler would become such a controversial figure in the Breaking Bad universe.
“It was very bizarre and confusing to us all,” Gunn told EW.
Critics saw Skyler as an obstacle for Walt
Early on in the show, Skyler questions Walt on his shady behavior and just generally tries to keep him in check. But fans didn’t appreciate her meddling and at that point, they were still rooting for Walt. That’s why they started to see Skyler as nosy and annoying rather than as the concerned wife.
“It was a combination of sexism, ideas about gender roles, and then honestly, it was the brilliance of the construct of the show,” Gunn told EW.
“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.”
Fans were not afraid to express their feelings
Gunn said at one event for the show, a man stood up and said, “Why is your character such a bitch?” With reactions like that happening more and more frequently, Gunn started to become self-conscious about her acting abilities.
“There was a lot of questioning: ‘Am I doing something wrong? Am I not serving the character? Am I not serving the story?’” she told Vulture.
But ultimately, Skyler was being punished for being a woman who got in the way. As she explained during a comment piece for the New York Times (via The Guardian), “At the end of the day, she hasn’t been judged by the same set of standards as Walter. 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.”
No one understood the hate
It wasn’t just Gunn confused by the hate — her co-stars and even showrunner Vince Gilligan didn’t expect so much animosity toward Skyler.
“I really felt for Anna, because she’s just such a beautiful human inside and out, and she played Skyler in such a fierce way, and people just dragged her character the most,” Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman) told EW. Bryan Cranston (Walter White) had the same thoughts. “It baffled me from an objective standpoint,” he said.
Anna Gunn thinks she’d be perceived differently now
Part of the problem, according to Gunn, is a lack of sensitivity when the show aired compared to the current cultural climate. “Now that the show’s done, it’s kind of amazing how much it’s shifted,” she told Vulture. “In particular, women will say — I mean, it still gets me kind of emotional — ‘The journey that she went through…’ They may or may not be aware of the Skyler backlash.”
She said people can see Skyler more clearly now that they know her full story, too. “That’s incredibly gratifying. It’s men and women who connect with that. There’s been such a shift happening in society and in our consciousness that it’s really landing much more strongly now,” she concluded.