Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has discussed the sexist backlash to Skyler White (Anna Gunn), saying that the character “did nothing to deserve that”.
The show, which concluded in 2013, followed Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) transformation from cancer-stricken chemistry teacher to ruthless drug kingpin. This switch to meth-dealer, however, was understandably not supported by his wife Skyler.
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As the show progressed, some viewers grew particularly hostile towards Skyler, to the point where actor Gunn wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in 2013 titled ‘I Have A Character Issue’. In the post, she wrote: “My character, to judge from the popularity of web sites and Facebook pages devoted to hating her, has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, non submissive, ill-treated women.”
In an interview with The New Yorker about the backlash, Gilligan said: “Back when the show first aired, Skyler was roundly disliked. I think that always troubled Anna Gunn. And I can tell you it always troubled me, because Skyler, the character, did nothing to deserve that. And Anna certainly did nothing to deserve that. She played the part beautifully.
“I realise in hindsight that the show was rigged, in the sense that the storytelling was solely through Walt’s eyes, even in scenes he wasn’t present for. Even Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), his archenemy, didn’t suffer the animosity Skyler received. It’s a weird thing. I’m still thinking about it all these years later.”
Gilligan also shared his view on Walter today, adding: “After a certain number of years, the spell wears off. Like, wait a minute, why was this guy so great? He was really sanctimonious, and he was really full of himself. He had an ego the size of California. And he always saw himself as a victim.
“He was constantly griping about how the world shortchanged him, how his brilliance was never given its due. When you take all of that into consideration, you wind up saying, ‘Why was I rooting for this guy?’”
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2018, Gunn described the backlash to Skyler as “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,” Gunn said. “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.”
Breaking Bad spin-off show Better Call Saul recently concluded its sixth and final season.