Breaking Bad delivered plenty of surprises during its five-season run, but one of the most shocking aspects of the AMC series came from fan reactions to the show. Despite Bryan Cranston portraying an increasingly detestable antihero in Walter White, many viewers came to sympathize with his Breaking Bad character, even more so than the people he was hurting. That’s likely what led to the backlash Skyler (Anna Gunn) received while Breaking Bad was on air. However, the Skyler hate quickly became so intense that it took most of the cast by surprise — including Cranston himself.
Anna Gunn received hate from ‘Breaking Bad’ fans
The Breaking Bad fandom’s response to Skyler White proved a shocking development — not just because she was usually in the right, but because fans took things incredibly far. Their dislike of the character went well beyond dragging her in reviews. Anna Gunn, who portrayed Walter’s wife, received a disturbing amount of criticism about her role in the series. Oftentimes, it boiled right over into outward hostility.
In fact, Gunn even penned an op-ed about her experience playing Skyler for The New York Times. Titled “I Have a Character Problem,” the 2013 essay addressed the vitriol aimed at her character — and eventually herself:
“At some point on the message boards, the character of Skyler seemed to drop out of the conversation, and people transferred their negative feelings directly to me. The already harsh online comments became outright personal attacks.”
Although the actor claims she grew used to such responses, her experience shocked the rest of Breaking Bad‘s cast. Even Cranston, who understood Walter the most, couldn’t understand why people were so hard on his on-screen wife.
Bryan Cranston and the cast were shocked by fan reactions
Cranston had the most reason to relate to Walter White, having played the character from his time as a chemistry teacher until he fully became Heisenberg. However, the actor never lost sight of the fact that what Walter was doing was wrong. And even he couldn’t grasp why fans were siding with Breaking Bad‘s lead over Skyler.
During a 2018 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cranston marveled at the way Skyler took the blame for Walter’s wrongdoings:
“It was confusing to all of us. We didn’t see this coming, and as Aaron [Paul] said, if you look at the elements that were involved in this — husband she finds out is lying, husband is doing something illegal, is doing something that puts her family in lethal danger, and she’s being chastised for it? It’s like, ‘Wait a minute.’ It baffled me from an objective standpoint.
Cranston does believe that some fans started to realize their mistake during the later seasons of the AMC series. As Walter pushed further and further past morally grey, people began to realize Skyler was right. (Well, some of them did, anyway.)
“I think it finally came around, and people started realizing the more that Heisenberg started to become this despicable person, allegiances toward Heisenberg were being strained and rightfully so,” he added.
But even now, Skyler remains the most-despised character in certain circles of the Breaking Bad fandom. So, why did she evoke such a strong reaction in viewers?
Why did ‘Breaking Bad’ fans dislike Skyler so much?
There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to the Skyler backlash, starting with the way Breaking Bad tells its story. With Walter as the show’s main character, viewers take in events from his perspective. And the show depicts Walter as relatable and likable in the beginning in an attempt to make fans care. Because they’re on this journey with Walter, it’s easy to see why they might react negatively to Skyler’s pushback.
Of course, Gunn’s op-ed suggests there’s an element of misogyny to Skyler’s harsh treatment, and that’s probably an accurate assumption. As her NYT piece eloquently puts it, some viewers couldn’t stand seeing a woman hold her own against Walter:
“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?”
And some of the insults flung at Gunn prove her point about the misogyny. It’s not the only reason Skyler rubbed fans the wrong way, but it certainly helped drive the narrative. It’s a shame Gunn couldn’t have prepared herself for it ahead of time — but then, it doesn’t seem like anyone on the show saw it coming.
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