By Diana Metzger
I also love Carmela Soprano, Megan Draper, and dare I say it, even Betty Draper. These wives of some of cable’s greatest leading men are united by a harsh backlash of Internet trolls labeling them shrill killjoys. As if their sole purpose on their shows is for them to wrap a wet blanket around the awesome main man’s meth, murder, adultery, whorehouse flashback party.
Something happened this week that made me want to jump on my soapbox, waving a burning bra, and shouting my love for these fictional women: Anna Gunn’s halfway-there op-ed piece on Skyler haters.
Gunn’s rumination on the slightly scary nature of those rabid Breaking Bad fans (who run the extremes of finding her character an untamed shrew to those who wish the actress dead because of their crazed dislike for her character) was smart, but stopped before it really got going. She didn’t really get a chance to strip apart why these fans needed to hate her character so much. Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan at least threw out the word “misogyny” when New York Magazine’s Vulture asked why Skyler was hated by some fans.
I think it might go even further than just fans being annoyed that Skyler is getting in the way of all of Walt’s not-so-clean fun or believing that her character is a blathering harpy. There’s a common thread on these shows that only one character can “break bad” and the other tries to make sense of the mess—that’s drama. Unfortunately the maid in this scenario always seems to be the wife. This is no way a flaw of the writing; this set status is more a flaw (or a comment on) society’s view of a “wife.”
These women were flawed but someone in the pair needed to pretend to keep the peace. The whole structure and success of these shows is the male character busting out of polite society. That’s part of why audiences love them so much; it’s a twisted role-playing, wish fulfillment. Yes, Carmela is a hypocrite, Megan Draper is a terrible soap-opera actress, and Betty Draper wins the award for worst mother (though I still believe Sally Draper will grow up to be Hillary Clinton) but they tried to put on the good face for the world that their husbands were sick of turning on. The only time any of these women busts loose and breaks bad is sleeping with men far less interesting (and terrifying) than their husbands. Sex is their only small rebellion. Sex and singing “Zou Bijou Bijou” as a party favor.
I give Skyler serious props for trying to make Walt’s sadistic, power-hungry lifestyle functional. She pays off her boss/paramour Ted’s debt to the government and then turns the car wash into the perfect suburban one-stop money launder shop. She even has Jessie over for a nice family dinner.
In this past Sunday’s episode, Walt got to wield a frozen gun and make grand plans in the desert while Skyler ran the cash register at the car wash. It’s not fun to be the responsible one, but someone has to keep up the front. I have no doubt that Skyler could be a bad-ass—she got downright intense with Hank and her own sister a couple episodes ago and she can do a mean Marilyn Monroe impression while being ready to pop a baby out any minute. That’s balls.
If both the woman and the man got to have all the fun, you know what you’d have? Beyonce and Jay-Z.
While getting hair stuck in a fan, naming your baby a primary color, and taking a slightly unsavory trip to Cuba is semi-newsworthy, I’m not sure it’s the stuff of great drama. Can a man and wife team up, both be baddies, and still get viewers excited? I’ll wait for Lifetime to prove me wrong.