Anna Gunn, who plays Skyler White in AMC's smashing hit Breaking Bad knows just how much criticism Skyler gets as a wife. Questions arise as to whether she's the perfect wife of an antihero, or just about everything you didn't want in one.
She's devised everything from a business to launder Walt's money to an elaborate gambling addiction to cover up how they've made their money. She writes for the New York Times:
A typical online post complained that Skyler was a “shrieking, hypocritical harpy” and didn’t “deserve the great life she has.” “I have never hated a TV-show character as much as I hate her,” one poster wrote. The consensus among the haters was clear: Skyler was a ball-and-chain, a drag, a shrew, an “annoying bitch wife.”
Gunn points out that other wives of antiheroes on popular TV shows have elicited similar feelings. From Betty Draper to Carmela Soprano. But has the audience changed from then to now? Why aren't we siding on Skyler for trying to protect her future and her kids? Gunn continues:
Could it be that they can’t stand a woman who won’t suffer silently or “stand by her man”? That they despise her because she won’t back down or give up? Or because she is, in fact, Walter’s equal?
Because Walter is the show’s protagonist, there is a natural tendency to empathize with and root for him, despite his moral failings. (That viewers can identify with this antihero is also a testament to how deftly his character is written and acted.) As the one character who consistently opposes Walter and calls him on his lies, Skyler is, in a sense, his antagonist.
Vince Gilligan, the creator of “Breaking Bad,” wanted Skyler to be a woman with a backbone of steel who would stand up to whatever came her way, who wouldn’t just collapse in the corner or wring her hands in despair. He and the show’s writers made Skyler multilayered and, in her own way, morally compromised. But at the end of the day, she hasn’t been judged by the same set of standards as Walter.