Aug. 24th, 2013

skywaterblue: (neil gaiman would unhappen so much)
The Anna Gunn Thing, as best exemplified by her New York Times op-ed today, is frustrating because both sides are wrong. Skyler is a significantly annoying character, let down not just by the writing but primarily by the acting. And for at least the first year, yes, the show DOES want us to see Skyler as an antagonist.

That said, 'Breaking Bad' doesn't introduce Gretchen Schwartz for nothing. Her role in the narrative is to exist as the 'one that got away' along with Walt's entire self-mythologized life that got away. The show makes it as explicitly implicit as possible that the life Skyler represents: safe, lower-middle class domesticity in an Albuquerque suburb, is not the one Walt would have chosen and was his version of second best. Which puts Skyler herself in the position of being established as his second best - from the very THIRD episode!

When the narrative explicitly puts the main female character in the position of being the second best option, that main character better be charismatic and sympathetic as all hell to counteract that balance. And Anna Gunn is not it, and the material (especially in that critical first season) is NOT there for her to make that argument. In this sense, the show wanted too much from this character because her motivations from a Watsonian perspective are sensible. No married woman, struggling financially and six months pregnant wants to hear that her husband has terminal cancer and doesn't want to fight it. The writing and the production (direction/acting) are to make the character of Skyler as shrill and unsympathetic as possible when her motivations are completely believable. Choosing to dial that down initially and play her as much more traditional might ultimately have made this character and her role in the narrative much stronger.

It's a huge, gaping flaw in the show that undermines a great deal of Gilligan's efforts to explicitly talk about class consciousness through 'Breaking Bad'. Because ultimately, if Skyler IS always second best, if her lifestyle was always insufficient, then Walt was right that he made a mistake by settling for that life in the first place, which means he was (somewhat) correct in pursuing his deathwish to rectify it and become an international drug kingpin.

These are real issues and flaws within the show, and all of them end up centering around the idea that I am never sure what they intended with Skyler except that she be seen as a second-best life and an antagonist to the protagonist.

And with all that being true, misogynistic attacks on the actress and the character are not appropriate and reveal just how little ability Americans (especially men) have to separate gender-issues from class issues. People don't hate Skyler because she's a woman, they hate her because she's explicitly set up as a lower-middle class woman AND the show internally supports a reading that it's because her lifestyle is second best.

Which leaves me in the position of largely agreeing with her critics, but massively disliking their opinions and wanting no part of actually being a member of either club.


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