By Kayla Upadhyaya, Daily TV/New Media Editor
Published October 22, 2012
All right, folks: It’s time to talk about your mommy issues. Or, more specifically, your issues with television’s wives and mothers.
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Few fictional mothers come under fire as often as “Breaking Bad” ’s Skyler White. The “Skyler is a bitch” argument has been so prevalent since the series’ inception that it feels tedious at this point. But unfortunately, it’s a conversation we need to keep having. Despite Anna Gunn’s own comments on the sexism behind the vehement — sometimes even violent — aversion to Skyler, and despite the countless manifestos scattered across the internet that attempt to vindicate her, the Skyler haters remain.
Just last week, I told a friend of mine that Skyler was one of my favorite characters on the show.
“You like Skyler?” he asked.
Here we go again. When I pressed him for an explanation as to why he can’t stand Skyler, he gave the usual: “She’s annoying.”
Let’s see. When Skyler first finds out her husband has ingrained himself in the dangerous world of the crystal meth market — and has essentially put their entire family at risk in doing so — she reacts like any rational human would. She’s furious. She wants Walt out of her life. When he doesn’t allow that to happen, she cheats on him — something folks seem quicker to criticize than they do Walt’s multiple homicides.
Skyler isn’t a bitch. She’s a prisoner. She’s a victim of Walt’s self-absorbed, oppressive behavior. She’s a mother who so desperately wants to protect her children that she is willing to put herself at risk, is willing to compromise with the man who threatens their safety in the first place. Skyler’s moral compass is far from true north, but every action she takes is for her family’s survival, while Walt’s actions are for the sake of his own ego and relentless need for control. Just look at how many get-out-of-meth-free cards he has turned down.
The only reason people hate Skyler is the result of this perverse attachment to the show’s antihero. Skyler gets in the way of Walt, our chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-maker, who has transformed into nothing short of a sociopathic nightmare. It’s a disease that can be traced back to Tony Soprano.
In 2002, when “The Sopranos” was in decline, the New York Post ran a poll asking viewers how to fix the series. Many of the answers centered around Tony’s wife Carmela, and suggestions included “kill all the women” and “Carmela’s whining too much — whack her!”
Sure, Carmela is no saint, but even her most nefarious activities don’t quite compare to the violence perpetuated by her mobster husband. Why are we so much quicker to pass judgement on these mothers and wives over the corrupt — in some cases, downright evil — men they’re married to?
Victoria Grayson of ABC’s “Revenge” too suffers condemnation, appearing on countless “Worst Mothers on TV” lists.
In her case, her evil husband Conrad is widely disliked by viewers, but Victoria is still a prime example of how hypercritical viewers are of women — and mothers in particular — on television.