Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My open letter to Anna Gunn

By Sati. Tuesday, August 27, 2013 ,
 Mrs. Gunn,

While I always and consistently disliked Skyler White I also had a profound respect for you for not making a spectacle out of yourself and not complaining about how many people dislike your character. I especially respected you for not repeating Vince Gilligan ludicrous and highly offensive allegations that Skyler is hated because of the misogyny.

Being disliked for the character you are playing is a professional hazard when you play what - as you yourself put it - a villain to the show's protagonist. Unfortunately, you wrote NY times article that is not only completely missing the point as to why people dislike your character but also you made some comments that are genuinely offensive to women who are actual victims of misogyny all around the World.

First of all, calling Skyler a strong woman is an insult to strong women everywhere. She is not a strong woman. Strong women are not hypocrites who condemn what their husbands are doing at one moment and use it to their advantage the next. Strong women don't punish their unborn, defenseless children for their own mistakes. Strong women don't emasculate their husbands from the very start. If Skyler packed the bags, took the kids and said Walt fuck you and your money and then left, I'd be the first one to cheer and root for her. But she didn't. She is weak. And if she wasn't supposed to be weak - the writers failed.

You wrote:  As an actress, I realize that viewers are entitled to have whatever feelings they want about the characters they watch. But as a human being, I’m concerned that so many people react to Skyler with such venom. 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 as a human being I reserve the right, Mrs. Gunn, to judge, condemn and hate a woman who is smoking during pregnancy, who eats unhealthy things solely on purpose to punish the child she has with a  man she currently hates. An unborn, defenseless child. Her own flesh and blood. I reserve the right to judge a woman who cheats on her dying husband, who attempts to take his kids away from him but lacks the guts to carry the deal through and really separate herself and her kids from this man, in the process putting her family and her own son through hell.

The issue with your character is not that she "doesn't back down" - it's because her perpetual indecisiveness is creating problems for everyone around her. Skyler caused pain to her son, her lover, her family. Unlike another character on the show - Marie - Skyler doesn't show much support or warmth for anyone. It's something you should discuss with the writers, not blame the fans for how they respond to character that comparing to others, comes off as cold. The writers didn't give Skyler anything to balance out her difficult personality. Don't blame the fans for the writers' mistakes.

Also, Mrs. Gunn, currently Skyler is standing by Walt. She takes advantage of his fortune and she helps him launder the money. The problem here is not the fact she won't suffer silently. The problem here is that she is tragically inconsistent and in the process - comes off as extremely weak person.

Your comments where you say Skyler is Walt's equal and you comparing her character to Carmella Soprano - a legitimately strong, consistent female character - came off as your wishes. In reality I don't think anyone can view your character as Walt's equal, a man that is, thanks to the writing on the show, portrayed in much more sympathetic light. Is it right? No, but again - discuss it with your writers. As for Carmella - no offense to you, but neither Skyler nor your performance - as great as it is - deserve to be put in the same sentence as Edie Falco's legendary character.

Apparently you received death threats which is obviously hugely alarming. But you seem to put all the fans of the show who dislike your character into the bag of misogynists who want to kill you. That's very harmful and you are alienating fans of the show even further from your character. And welcome to the Internet. Things like that sadly happen.

But I finally realized that most people’s hatred of Skyler had little to do with me and a lot to do with their own perception of women and wives.

The most disturbing part of it, though, is that this character is now made into some sort of a martyr by your fans. There are some great female characters out there that people love - but you and others seem to conveniently leave this fact out while defending Skyler. Skyler being made out to some sort of icon of people hating "strong female characters" is wrong and disgusting. There are actual women - not some made up TV series characters - who are the victims of actual misogyny. You and your fans throwing that term so lightly when it comes to a matter so insignificant as fans of TV show hating a character is very saddening.

It has nothing to do with the gender - if Skyler was Walt's gay partner, I assure you, I'd hate that person just the same because of the actions of that character. Using the word "misogyny" here is just saddening because real misogyny is going on out there and affects women who I'm sure are far, far stronger than your character.

I cannot help but feel that you feel a bit left out. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are universally adored. But look at them - just as the writers of the show made their characters more accessible, they are accessible too - chatting with fans on social media sites, acting like regular guys. I'm not saying you should do that, it's your choice, but when you play a difficult character and the first thing you do to reach out to people is complaining about the fans of the show, it seems to me it's a bad move to win their hearts.

Lastly, look at another character that people passionately hate - Cersei Lannister played by Lena Headey in Game of Thrones. I don't hear about people sending Lena Hadey death threats. I don't see people filling the boards with hate messages for her. When someone calls her a bitch  Lena just smiles. She turns it into a humorous situation and people love her for it. By making situations like that into anecdote she tells during interviews, she takes the power away from those who call her a "bitch" and hate her.

If you make fun of this and trivialize it, it won't have power. By falsely adding misogynistic agenda to people simply not liking a TV character you are making things far too dark, you add power to them and you are only making things worse.

My advice to you Mrs. Gunn would be to take pride in your performance and you creating a character that people feel so passionately about. Truth is that Skyler has a lot of fans out there. And your performance made them love her. Focus on the good, not the bad and keep in mind it's just a TV show and if you think you are a victim of "misogyny", mam, you don't really know what misogyny is.

Sincerely,
a female fan of the show.



24 comments:

  1. *sigh* still confused by the "hatred" of her character. While I don't know what I would do in her situation (probably even far worse things for which I'd be "hated"), I do think that Skyler's actions have been indicative to her character, which makes her genuine. I don't think everything she does is right (from my distant stance), but I don't know too many women who are perfect so it's nice to see someone (especially a female character) get a little messy and do "bad" things. I like the complexity of her character and that she doesn't always make the right decisions. She keeps me watching her. Otherwise, she'd be one dimensional, predictable and bland. I agree wholeheartedly with gunn's message, especially the bigger picture and how it relates to the perception of a character like betty draper (who i STILL don't understand was so hated). She's another example of an authentic character who doesn't always say the right things but i could not possibly imagine how i would be perceived in her situation as well.

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    1. Well, she is hardly the first character to be 'authentic'. The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood (in which she was actually more authentic) all had far more interesting female characters.

      I think Skyler is the worst written character on the show. Gilligan's comments make it clear to me he has no freaking idea what to do with her most of the time and now he blames it on the misogyny, whereas it's the writers fault that people dislike Skyler so much. Look at Marie - she has done some bad stuff but people don't bash her. She has mixed moments - where she is loving and where she is tough. Skyler doesn't. She either does something decisive which is mostly something awful she does to Walt or she wanders around battling with her decisions. I can't remember a single loving scene involving her. That to me is not authentic. That to me is a deeply miserable, one-dimensional character.


      I don't like Betty nor Don, frankly I stopped watching the show years ago because the writers made all of them so unlikable and boring I just didn't care anymore. I watch Breaking Bad now solely because I want to see the end, but the comments like the one made by Gilligan and Gunn made me question just how much in control those people are over their own creation since they don't understand their own audience.

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  2. I'm resisting the temptation to read this post just in case there are spoilers. We're on Season 4 of Breaking Bad -- watching obsessively. It drives me crazy on nights The Hubby has to work, forcing me to wait several days to see the next episode. People who watch real T.V. -- instead of catching everything later on streaming? This business of waiting a whole week between episodes? How do you manage it? :-D

    I actually liked Skyler (the character) until recently, though my husband disagreed. A very flawed character, to be sure, but I admired her strength and her love for her family. Plus I have a soft spot for pregnant women. Ha ha! Once we got to the whole car wash debacle, however, I started disliking her.

    Funny how hard people can be on actors who play unlikeable characters, especially women. I remember reading that Lena Headey gets dissed at comic con -- e.g. -- "Oh -- you play that bitch. I don't want *your* autograph." She quipped that she was flattered they found her portrayal so convincing. But seriously, what's wrong with people?

    I'll be back to read this post later.

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    1. There are no spoilers, I have no time to see the newest season :)

      Gunn making such a spectacle and encouraging people to pity her - pitiful. I understand over zealous bloggers doing that but a person involved in the show? Very dissapointing.

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    2. Since you gave me the "all clear" on spoilers, I read the post. :-) Interesting discussion. I agree with some, but not all, of your opinions about this character. And I agree that it's wrong to jump to the conclusion that people dislike her character so much because of "misogyny."

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    3. Another really disturbing thing is that if mostly guys hate her character then it must mean they hate her only because she is a woman.

      It's as if someone told me I hate all men because I despise Don Draper.

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  3. I watch Breaking Bad with my mom, and we've begun discussing Skyler's character ever since I first brought up the hatred of her. Every episode we usually end up discussing her actions, her thought process, reasonings, mistakes, and impulses. Although we arn't completely caught up so I can't vouch for any of her more recent character developments, I will say that I do not hate her. All the characters on this show are flawed, and I find Skyler's situation to be something that most people couldn't deal with very well.

    The best way to understand a character is to empathize. So I do. I picture myself as the women who's husband spirals out of control after a cancer diagnosis, trying to connect with someone who pushes away. And even when she tries to understand the rift he's created between them, his suspicious and bizarre behavior continues to escalate beyond what is tolerable. Skyler's smoking shocked me at first, but I honestly do not believe she was smoking out of spite. She loves her children, and doesn't strike me as the kind of person to do such a thing. Smoking was her desperate and futile attempt to relieve stress. She hid it from Walt, if she wanted to spite him she would have made it clear to him. She stops rather quickly as well, rather than sinking into an easy relief. I'm not saying that her rationalization or thoughts justify her actions, I'm simply saying that she is human. I sincerely doubt that most people who watch Breaking Bad have been in the situations Skyler's been in. Once again, I'm not saying her choices are right, but they are plausible and understandable. She does not want the father of her children in jail, so she covers up Walt's lie, and this unfortunately causes her and her family to slip deeper into Walt's dangerous world. Getting out of such a relationship is not as easy as some might think. Unhealthy relationships can be clung to even when it seems completely irrational to an outside observer. You mentioned that you have never seen Skyler as loving. I challenge you to go back to Season 1 and 2 and see scenes where she is concerned as Walt's health and mentality shift. She is also extremely encouraging and supportive of her son. Last but certainly not least, the beautiful piece of one episode with Sklyer softly singing to Holly, how is there no love? Skyler's attempts to protect and hold together her family don't always work out, but she has not yet become the misguided and cold monster that Walt has. I still sympathize with her and dread the day when I may no longer be able to. I can no longer sympathize with Walt, only pity him for what he has become and what he has lost.

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    1. See I do not see any evidence that she loves her children. For a pregnant woman to do the shit she did - despicable. Again it's the writers' weakness here. We have all those scenes with Walt caring for his kids, but none about Skyler.

      You can challenge me all you want but all I remember is Skyler obsessively trying to control everything. Skyler didn't have the guts to take her family away from Walt. Shall I applaud her for trying? I will not. She chose a lover over her own children.

      Gilligan and Gunn saying all that dislike her because they are misoginistic is despicable and ignorant. Her article made me reflect on the show and the show does not look good in the result. Gilligan wrote that character and he dares to call fans misogynistic? A way to ruin the legacy.

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    2. I will say that not all the hate towards Skyler is misogynistic, however, from what I have seen of the fanbase, it's made up of mostly males, and I certainly have seen a fair share of misogynistic comments about her. They often apply reasoning against Skyler's actions, yet do not hold Walt to the same such standards. That infuriates me. Walt is the villain; he murders and lies and no longer thinks about any sort of consequence his actions have. People are exceedingly hung up on Skyler's mistakes while not realizing that Walt is the one who created these situations in the first place, and did not stop causing them. As you mentioned, it is also partly the writers (who are mostly, men, by the way) that must hold blame for not writing Skyler as well as they should be. I honestly find Skyler's character development has grown steady and stronger as each season passes, but the writers found out how to write her better too late, it seems.

      Now, I can understand many of your viewpoints, but one that makes me especially sad is your view of Anna's article. Anna has been threatened and harassed because of a fictional portrayal, and that is not okay. I don't care if someone thinks it's a "career hazard". Just because it's common doesn't make it right. It's downright despicable and I think Anna has every right to speak out after years of silence about it. Although there are many aspects to look at when approaching this subject, one thing we should all be able to agree on is that Anna herself does not deserve hatred because of a brilliant performance, regardless of whether you despise or adore her character. Sadly, it seems even that is not attainable.

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    3. Just because men don't like Skyler doesn't mean they don't like her because she is a woman. As I said, if Sky was Walt's male partner I bet she would be treated in the same way. That's not misogyny. Gilligan, Gunn and fans of Skyler saying it is frankly makes me respect those people much less because they are applying a real term to such an insignificant situation and they really come off as insensitive.

      Yes they did. And now they blame fans for the perception of the character? Seems to me these people need some PR professionals, fast.

      It's not common. There are plenty of strong female characters on TV and actresses who play them are not treated like Anna is. She is an actress, people hate her character. She makes money, wins awards and she uses her position to whine on national paper because people write mean things about her on the Internet? I understand fans of the show behaving like that but she just came off as childish and weak. What will this article change? Nothing, except now Gunn added fuel to the fire.

      People love the show. They are very passionate. Should they identify an actress with a character? No, but it's the way it is.

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  4. Amen, Sati. One of the best things I've read of yours and I completely agree. I couldn't even get through the entire letter she wrote because of how batshit insane she was and how she felt justified in even writing it. Skyler is easily the worst character on the show. Hell, even Walt Jr., whose primary existence is to eat breakfast is far more likable and real. I guess we can award his ignorance but with Skyler, it's a completely opposite story. From the get go, she's a cold hard bitch that makes you question why Mr. White's even with her in the first place. She's commanding, she belittles him constantly, and besides a morning hug before he leaves for school, I never found her to be a loving mother.

    Unfortunately, as genius as the writing is on the show, I really think that her involvement and "importance" in the finale is why she's been kept alive for so long. That, and the fact Mr. White would go absolutely insane (why, I don't know) if anything happened to her. She's become a shell of a sub-par character that shuffles around and screams left and right because she doesn't know what else to do. Yes, Anna Gunn is a great actress in most of these scenes, but her character is far from a strong woman. She's a mess in the worst of ways an if she feels that's how a woman would act in her situation, I feel for the lives of any other drug dealer, distributor, cook, or handler.

    As for your point about comparisons to Cersei or Carmella, I completely agree. Both are strong women, and with Cersei especially, strong villains. The key to a good bad guy, however, is that you need to make them someone you love to hate, not someone you hate and hate. Every great villain touches upon something we can connect with, even if it's in a wild sense of the word. With The Joker, he's fucked up but sadistic in a comical way, with Darth Vader, he's strong, commanding, and takes shit from no one, and with even Mr. White, the hero and villain of the show, we see the genius behind every single one of his actions that we have to admire him for it. With Skyler, she's strung along like a lost puppy that tries to leave home but is dragged back in the mouth of the alpha dog, and it's not something you can cheer for.

    Thank God for Marie. That's saying something.

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    1. Thank you! Absolutely. She is not a well written character. They didn't put in a single nice scene where she would come off as someone who is not completely selfish and self-serving. Walt, Jesse, Mike...they all had several scenea where it was shown they care about other people. Skyler just comes off as mean and cold. It's the writers' fault and for them to have the audacity to accuse fans of being misogynistic because they don't like the character THEY wrote is simply low.

      That's a fantastic point. I also don't understand why Walt fell for her in the first place and if she wasn't so awful before, the show really didn't give me enough to understand just how she became as miserable as she is now, and she was miserable from the first episode.

      YES! The best villains are entertaining to watch and they should have at least one quality that makes them fun even if they are one dimensional. Either because their actions are so over the top or they are so brilliant in what they do. That is hat makes them thrilling to watch. Skyler is so miserable she just makes me depressed when I watch her scenes.

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  5. I agree with all of this. I feel sympathy for Skylar occasionally, but I wonder if most of it is just because Anna Gunn is so good at playing her. I hate the misogyny argument. I don't think misogyny has anything to do with this. The Anon that stated most of the hate comes from males. I think I have to disagree, most of the hate I see is from females. At least the ones I hang around.

    Brilliantly written, btw!

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    1. I don't know many people in real life who watch the show, it's not that popular where I live and most of my friends gave up in season 1, so I can't really say which sex dislikes Skyler more, but honestly she is so weak I wouldn't be surprised if women where offended by the way she is portrayed and disliked her in the process.

      This whole argument about misogyny is fucking insane - Game of Thrones has strong female characters and I don't see any of them being hated. In fact the one who is disliked the most is probably Dany and that's mostly because she wastes her strength and abilities in book 5.

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  6. Great post, Sati! Now I don't watch Breaking Bad so I'm not familiar w/ her character, but it's interesting how you pointed out how Lena Heady handles it when people hate her for playing a despicable character (which is just too funny, I mean it's called ACTING people!), so yeah, sounds like Anna should perhaps take note from her. I don't think most people have issues w/ strong female characters, heck, look at Ripley, Sarah Connor, etc. who are cinematic icons loved by both men and women alike.

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    1. Thank you! Exactly, it's acting. Great examples! It's like he cinematic/TV history started only when Breaking Bad began for these people.

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  7. It might sound like I’m rambling a little at first but stay with me.
    One of my favorite things about Breaking Bad has been my continued desire to rethink past moments. As the show follows Walt, he starts off as the character you "root" for, the character that you build your interest in. As the seasons progress, obviously there are more events that take place that shape Walt, but there are also more opportunities to see who Walt is as a person. In earlier seasons, we know Walt as a somewhat beaten down, exceedingly average man that is diagnosed with a terrible disease. We sympathize with his need to provide for his family and even accept his reluctance to take money from others seemingly out of pride. But after each passing season, we know more about Walt. We carefully follow his actions and motivations and choices made in the past are also given a new perspective. I’m not suggesting that Walt has always been ‘bad’ (if that’s what you wanna call his current state) but I definitely look at his character in a completely different light when I think back to him in earlier seasons.
    So what does that have to do with Skylar? Well I look at her the same way. It’s very easy to start out against her, and even hate her when we first follow her character. I certainly remember being pretty steamed at her for the affair and being so frustrated when she would impede Walk when in my current mind I thought “he is just trying to help the FAMILY! Why can’t you see that?!” But Skylar is just as human and likable as Walt. She is a completely flawed individual because humans are completely flawed. I think what Gunn was attempting to get at in her piece was that there are a lot of people out there that hate Skylar because she’s not Walt. Meaning she’s not a ‘man getting stuff done, being a badass’ instead she’s a woman that, in an attempt to cope with the situation she finds herself in, doesn’t just do whatever Walt tells her to. Saying she’s Walt’s equal refers more to her ability to try and stand up to his manipulations, something that even Jesse has had difficulty accepting and confronting. (Total sidebar but that last episode, HOLY SHIT, dealt with Jesse’s situation in an amazing way. His connection of Walt’s manipulation to the stolen ricin – a brilliant reflection.)
    All in all, I get what Anna Gunn is saying. Skylar is often unlikable but she is equally as flawed as our main character, which many people seem to completely overlook or refuse to acknowledge and a lot of that does stem from a misogynistic outlook of complicated female characters. I don’t think that the writers fail her and I disagree that there are no scenes that paint her in a positive light. I think it’s evident that she cares for her children (although it seems others completely disagree) and I think they have shown her to be very resourceful. As she stands right now in my book though, she made her bed. I think she is just as wrong as Walt is. I completely agree with you that she was certainly greedy, accepting Walt’s drug empire when it was bringing in loads of cash and is now a hypocrite thanks to the backtracking she has done with her feelings on the situation. All that aside, I still find her interesting, the same as Walt. Her experiences are not as theatrical but are still providing insight to who her character was and is becoming, just like Walt.

    So, I get you both?

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    1. I find Skyler interesting too, but I dislike her. I don't think Walt was ever average. I value and admire intelligence and the ability of thinking ahead and Walt always had that, unlike Skyler who did a lot of reckless things.

      The thing with Jesse not standing up to Walt is different - he never tried, he didn't do any half assed attempts and that is all that Sky is doing. And finally Jesse is going all out on Walt in new season - he has guts, unlike Sky.

      "a lot of that does stem from a misogynistic outlook of complicated female characters" I categorically disagree. Yet again I'll say - plenty of strong female characters out there and they are not getting hate.

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  8. Oh God! I knew something bad was going to happen to Daenerys towards the end! She is like my second most liked character in GoT after Tyrion because she is portrayed as pure good. She becomes stronger and incredibly cruel to the ones who do bad things, and she can change that, in a good way. She has dragons and when hear about dragons they would think of only death, misery, poverty and more death, but she has broken that stereotype in the 3rd season.
    I completely agree with you about Skyler and Cersei. I LOVE TO HATE Cersei so much that i hope she doesn't die, even though she is a b**ch.

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    1. Daenerys? Why are you talking about Daenerys? Nothing bad is happening to her, she just doesn't do much in book 5 :)

      TV series is actually less of a bitch than book Cersei :)

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  9. I thought I was going to find an "are you serious?" comment but no... nothing. So let me say it, Are you fucking serious? It's a TV show get a fucking grip people... if you imagine how the show would look like without Skyler making all those poor decisions the show would've ended two seasons ago... don't you think so? Sky finds out, tells hank, Walt goes to jail... plain and simple. Sky was meant to be bad, but more emotional than Walt. Stop questioning what they're doing with her character and enjoy the show that you love so much.

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    1. So not only do you lack the ability to sign your own nickname or whatever under your 'opinion' you also cannot read with comprehension? I wrote several times it's a TV show.

      Now go find Vince Gilligan and suck his dick.

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  10. I've been waiting for something like this. Me and my brother are on season three of the show right now and to be quite honest, I'm so confused to which characters I'm actually supposed to like, Jessie being the only one I do like at the moment.

    But Skyler on the other hand, I haven't liked her since the first season. Neither has my brother. We haven't been able to put into words why we don't like her, but you have taken the words right out of our mouths with this little article so thank you. I finally understand. And I kind of don't like her a little more now, I didn't know Gunn reacted in that way, especially compared to Hadey's reactions to her fans not liking her character. I equally don't like her character either but she seems to understand the flaws that make her character so unlikable, whereas Gunn does not. Ugh. Pisses me off. And I've still got a ton more episodes to watch.

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    1. She gets a little more tolerable in season 5, but honestly the fact that people make such a fuss because she is disliked and lose their shit all the time is so annoying. As if the borderline contemptuous person that is Skyler white had some sort of a right to be the icon that represents strong female characters. Ridiculous.

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