On Saturday, Anna Gunn wrote about the internet hatred for Skyler White, the character she plays on Breaking Bad.
But I was unprepared for the vitriolic response she inspired. Thousands of people have “liked” the Facebook page “I Hate Skyler White.” Tens of thousands have “liked” a similar Facebook page with a name that cannot be printed here. When people started telling me about the “hate boards” for Skyler on the Web site for AMC, the network that broadcasts the show, I knew it was probably best not to look, but I wanted to understand what was happening.
A typical online post complained that Skyler was a “shrieking, hypocritical harpy” and didn’t “deserve the great life she has.”
Admittedly, almost every character on Breaking Bad is a terrible person. And Skyler White has done a lot of terrible things, up to and including smoking while pregnant. But so far as I know, nobody is posting death threats aimed at the actors who play any of those other terrible characters. (Gunn notes one such comment: “Could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?”) Why all the Skyler/Gunn hate? Walter White, Gus Fring, and Mike Ehrmantraut have all done worse things on the show than Skyler. Saul Goodman is utterly reprehensible in a totally different way.
I think it has to come down to misogyny, pure and simple. Some men on the internet think it's okay to treat women as less than human, especially when they don't have to sign their names to what they're writing. And so all those confused feelings about right and wrong that Breaking Bad summons in its viewers find an outlet in Skyler White, who they believe it's "okay" to hate. Which is, of course, bullshit. I'm glad Gunn spoke out about it, and I hope to live to see a time when the actions of villainous women on TV can be discussed on the internet without dragging degrading, sexist hate speech into the conversation.