Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why I Too Hate Skyler White

Sorry I've been away for so long, but the truth is, there hasn't been much on TV that's inspired me to write. Of course, one problem is that I don't have cable. Way too expensive for mostly nonsense. But now I have Netflix and TVKitty lives on.

Of course, one show that everybody's been talking about is Breaking Bad, which is due to end this season. With Netflix, I've been busy catching up. Needless to say, this post will have spoilers, especially if you've never seen Breaking Bad. :)

There's so much to say about Breaking Bad which has some of the best writing I've ever seen on TV (Friday Night Lights comes close). But I'm really here to talk about Skyler. Skyler White. Walt's wife. The very troubling wife of Walt. I guess I'm not the only viewer upset by Skyler. Recently, Anna Gunn wrote a NYT op-ed piece about the shocking amount of hostility she faces playing the long-suffering Skyler. For her, it's an issue of sex. People want wives on TV to be weak, kind, understanding. Skyler isn't weak, kind, understanding. This provokes violent responses. Not just at Skyler but at Anna herself: "I was also astonished: how had disliking a character spiraled into homicidal rage at the actress playing her?" (I guess Anna's never been an evil character in a soap opera.)

I'm sure she's right. Women with balls seem to automatically trigger male homicidal tendencies. Or at least terrific fright. I was watching a report on dating and a guy says with terror and bewilderment, "I don't like self-confident women!" Poor, poor sap. But the thing is, I'm a woman and I don't like Skyler. It has nothing to do with my idea of what a wife should be and everything to do with Skyler being a holier-than-thou Lady Macbeth. Actually, that's not fair to Lady Macbeth as Lady Macbeth didn't tart herself up and practically skip to work so she can see the man she really has the hots for while keeping up the charade of perfectly martyred wife.

That's the thing about Skyler. She's worse than Walt. Well, maybe as bad since Walt has a lot of self-denial stuff going on too. Personally, I think her real problem with Walt has been that he's stolen the alpha position away from her. Before the cancer and the drugs, Skyler was the one in full control of the marriage and family. Walter hardly existed. His life was pathetic and he meekly submitted to all its banal horrors (wonder if Walter is an homage to James Thurber's Walter Mitty). It was the money crisis that reawakened and reinvented Walter. Sure, now he's a monster, but he's alive, he's thinking. Lo and behold, he's making decisions on his own and Skyler begins to unravel because she's not in control. And really, control is the true monster being dissected by the writers. Hank and Marie, in and out of control, Jesse, Jesse's parents, Gus. Control is fleeting and addictive and illusory.

The one time I had any feelings of sympathy for Skyler was that moment when Walt says, "Which phone?" as he's waiting for surgery, the drugs relaxing his mind. Anna Gunn is a fantastic actor. The look on her face, the slight tremble as if she's going to fall apart. Her life as she knew it is finally over. She tries to regain control by demanding a divorce, sleeping with her boss and throwing it in Walt's face. She doesn't start feeling in control again until that triumphant moment when she tells Marie that Walt's a gambler. Walt sits back, amazed at how Skyler takes over, controls and owns his story. Why couldn't she have been there for him all along?

But, of course, this is the moment that Skyler's lost control. The money is now in control (the money [drug] is always in control). And it's been coming, the way her toes scrunched the luxury bath mat at her boss's house, the way she gawked at Walt's new luxury condo. But like Walt, she needs the "good cause" to fully embrace that money. It's to help pay for Hank's recovery. And she underscores the "good cause" with cause and guilt by viciously reminding Walt that Hank would never have been injured if it hadn't been for Walt's involvement with drugs.

Now flashback to the moment that Skyler realizes Marie shoplifted the baby's gift. The lies Marie told. How unforgiving Skyler is. The ramifications of Skyler's lies are far more serious. The writing flows back and forth like this in the most beatific way, with each and every character from Badger to Hank so brilliantly and fully realized. Which is why I hate Skyler. She's so real. She's so us.