I know this because I’ve written about her sympathetically; I may as well have written COME AT ME, BRO in all caps. Remember when Walt bullied and bullshitted his way back into their home in Season Three, daring her to rat on him, knowing she couldn’t? Remember how awful and gross that was? I called that one of Walt’s lowest lows; some commenters felt differently. “That was a friggin’ high point for Walt, it showed he STOPPED being a pushover to his overbearing wife, and started fighting back.” Because Walt had been such a milquetoast up until that point? “[What about] men who don’t want women to kick them out of the houses they bought with their money? What legal right did she have to kick him out? none! Good on Walt for ‘brutalizing’ his wife into obeying the fucking law and letting him use his own hard earned property.” Well, we certainly wouldn’t want anyone on Breaking Bad to disobey the law.
This kind of reaction is not uncommon, for Skyler in particular and for women – often wives – on top-drawer TV dramas in general. Characters like Skyler become targets of vituperation unimaginable to their male counterparts, most of whom engage in vastly more destructive and immoral behavior every episode. By failing to indulge every whim of the male antiheroes around whom their shows are built, the women become obstacles to those men getting exactly what they want when they want it at all times, which is the core fantasy of antihero fiction. Cold cunning, ruthlessness, rage, self-interest, a propensity for physical violence – we gender these unheroic characteristics as male, and celebrate them; passivity, bitterness, grief, emotional enmeshment, a knack for attacking and deflating egos – we gender these unheroic characteristics as female, and loathe them. (Alyssa Rosenberg has nailed this phenomenon.) Skyler White, Betty Francis, Megan Draper, Catelyn Stark, Sansa Stark, Cersei Lannister, Carmela Soprano: On the sole count of “being women,” Fan Court finds you guilty as charged.