The Skyler Dilemma

Why is Skyler White the most unlikable character on Breaking Bad, while being the most sympathetic?

The Skylar White backlash is fairly amusing to behold from a distance (and borders on slightly annoying when your buddies are screaming the C-word at the television every Sunday night). And, for the record, I don't disagree! Skyler is a real buzz kill. But here's the problem, and this is a larger problem for the  psychology of our times...

People get more pissed off by hypocrisy than by murder.

I've noticed a trend over the years. Vitriol is reserved for the preachy, while actual scumbags are just keeping it real. What's wrong with our egos that we hate being told what to do so badly?

We'll save our heartiest middle finger for any highly audible advocate of righteousness--who happens to cheat on their taxes--while glamorizing ethnic-american organized criminals or gangsters. We're addicted to the ad hominem fallacy to the point where we can't seperate any moral messages from their source.

Also, Skyler was--at worst--only begrudgingly complicit at any given time, and--just like Walter--when certain things couldn't be undone, she opted to go all-in rather than have her family destroyed. (By her husband's choices.)

If we had all read the script on paper instead of watched the show... Or even listened to Breaking Bad on the radio like old-timey theatre of the mind... There's no world where the full extent of the Skyler hate-culture make any sense.

The problem with Skyler is that Breaking Bad is more art than entertainment, and Anna Gunn--an outstanding actress who I respect deeply--is simply too talented in the department of presenting a real wife whose reactions are loathsome, abhorrent and so axiomatically cunty that its realness distracts from the media experience of watching a TV show. But I defy you to find a wife in real life with half a brain and an ounce of personal courage who would be any less pissy than Skyler for the duration of YOUR monumentally disastrous methamphetamine empire.

Again, I'm not saying I don't hate Skyler. Believe me. I DO. And it doesn't make me sexist that when dangerous gambits intended to provide for his family are met with pure disdain, I pray Rosaries that her character melts in a plastic barrel. This is simply the male reaction, because MEN AND WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT.

Women are nurturing and they need the nest to be safe--understandably so. Men are egocentric and imaginative; we've evolved to stampede spazzy mammoths over the cliff so that everyone can have a shit-ton of mammoth meat and then play fantasy football. Less noble and more fun than their hedge-fund counterparts, but that's just the way it is (often).

So next time you're about to write hate-mail to the internet about how your cable provider slipped the worst human being on the planet into your package of Sunday FunDays®, just ask yourself if infidelity, money laundering, a holier-than-thou additude and undeniable un-likability are worse than whistling while you work while nine-year-olds on dirt-bikes get shot in the face.

Also, ask yourself if ten years later, Breaking Bad would hold up nearly as well as it's definitely going to if VG had picked a more likeable, less cringing and cringing-inducing real-life wife than "Anna White".


leo said...

But... you still hate her,... so you're part of the problem.?

I think she's the most sympathetic.

Dr. Carey said...

What problem? I STARTED OUT saying she was the most sympathetic character. It just also happens that males aren't as fond of attitudes that differ from their own, and when you combine that with Anna Gunn's preternaturally bitchy performance, it really challenges the male viewer--which I think is a good thing.