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The reason Skyler White was the most hated character on Breaking Bad

Over the course of five seasons, Vince Gilligan's harrowing, New Mexico-set meth-drama Breaking Bad was frequently hailed as the best show on television, and was a top performer for AMC. For 62 grueling episodes of the sun-bleached drug saga, one character was the voice of reason amongst all the insanity: Anna Gunn's Skyler White, the wife of the series' "protagonist" Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston. Unfortunately, her sound advice and reasonable stance on things didn't attract viewers — it repelled them, making Skyler the most hated character on Breaking Bad.

That may even be a bit of an understatement. During Breaking Bad's small-screen run, it often felt like Skyler White was the most hated television character ever, if not one of the most despised ones presented in any format. That fact was particularly surprising given that Breaking Bad was full of vile, self-serving characters worthy of hatred – with Cranston's meth kingpin Walt more than deserving the top spot on a list of terrible characters. Still, much of Breaking Bad's fanbase directed its wrath at Gunn's Skyler

Though Skyler did make a few moral missteps throughout the series (like getting frisky with Christopher Cousins' Ted Beneke), she was hardly the shrill, nagging, "ball-and-chain" that people made her out to be. The hate got very real very quickly, and in a 2018 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Gunn herself offered her own take on why the character was so reviled on the show. She told the publication she believed it stemmed mostly from "a combination of sexism, ideas about gender roles," and the structure of the series and its characters.

Fans wanted Walter White to be the hero, and began hating Skyler for standing in his way

By the time Breaking Bad was airing its fifth and final season in 2013, the Skyler hatred had gotten so bad that Gunn was moved to pen an op-ed in The New York Times that boldly claimed Skyler (and, by association, the actress herself) was at least in part the victim of gender-based double-standards. Gunn further posited that the character "had become a kind of Rorschach test for society, a measure of our attitudes toward gender."

Even Gunn openly admits there's probably a bit more to the Skyler hate than just basic gender politics. The actress, who netted two Supporting Actress Emmys for her work on Breaking Bad, added in her discussion with EW that the backlash was also part of "the brilliance of the construct of the show." For Gunn, she knew people wanted so badly to see Walt win that they couldn't help but dislike anyone who stood in his way.

"People did find a hero in Walt, but they wanted so much to connect with him so viscerally that to see the person who often was his antagonist — therefore the show's antagonist in a way — they felt like she was in the way of him doing whatever he wanted to do," she said. 

The Skyler White hate took a toll on Anna Gunn

Intriguing insights aside, it's become clear in the years since Breaking Bad left the airwaves that all the Skyler hate took a serious toll on Gunn's confidence. Per the same EW interview, the actress admitted that it was "very tough" on her. Gunn further shared, "It shook me. As an actor, my job is not to always play characters who make everybody happy. That's not interesting. In fact, characters that are more difficult in a way are more interesting. But when you are on a show that has become that big and people are identifying you so much with somebody that they dislike, you can't help but feel like you get folded into it."

It apparently shook Gunn so much that she questioned her own ability, with the actor telling EW, "There were a lot of questions. Am I doing something wrong? Am I not serving the character? Am I not serving the story?"

Anna Gunn's Breaking Bad co-stars don't understand the Skyler hate either

In the end, Gunn remains positive about the Breaking Bad backlash, telling EW, "It was extremely important for me to go through, and very powerful for me to learn that people will always have their opinions — and it can be for varied reasons, and that's fine." 

Even as Gunn clearly struggled with reconciling the toxic side of Breaking Bad's fandom, it's become just as clear that her co-stars were always in her corner. Gunn's character shared little screen time with Walt's Breaking Bad co-cook Jesse Pinkman, who was supposed to die during the first season of the show, but actor Aaron Paul remains one of the biggest supporters of Gunn's work on the series. Paul shared to EW his own assessment of the Skyler hate: "Why did our audience not sympathize with this poor woman? Granted, she is the thorn in Walter White's side, and everyone's rooting for Walter to succeed, but my God. You wake up one day you find out your husband is a meth kingpin, you know, you're going to have something to say about that. I really felt for Anna, because she's just such a beautiful human inside and out, and she played Skyler in such a fierce way, and people just dragged her character the most."

Cranston later chimed in with his own take on the issue, saying, "We didn't see this happening. As Aaron said, if you look at the elements that were involved in this — husband she finds out is lying, husband she finds out is doing something illegal, is doing something that puts her family in lethal danger, and she's being chastised — it's like, 'Wait a minute.' It baffled me from an objective standpoint."

Not for nothing, Mr. Cranston, but the misguided Skyler White hate continues to baffle us as well.