Anna Gunn’s Character Issue, and the Troll Problem

Take a moment to read “I Have a Character Issue” by Anna Gunn. It’s an op-ed piece about all the hatred and threats Gunn receives for her portrayal of Skyler White on AMC’s Breaking Bad. It’s unreal.

I understand the hatred of Skyler White, but at the same time, she’s a great character (and a very well-acted character by Gunn). She strikes me as a very real character, making tough choices as she’s trapped between her fear and disgust of what her husband has become and the love she still has for the father of her children. She has undergone her own transformation, albeit not as extreme as Walt’s.

On top of which people seem to forget Walt is the bad guy. Yes, he’s our protagonist, he’s become a badass, and on some level a lot of us can relate to him. But he’s also a complete anti-hero. If he were our own neighbor and we learned what he had done, we would be in complete fear of him, not awe.

Ladies, how would you react if this were your husband? Guys, how do you think your own wives would react if you were Walt? Whether it’s support for criminal enterprise or taking the kids and running, it’s going to be a strong, visceral reaction. She’s not going to turn into June Cleaver and bake you a cake.

As for this:

“I have never hated a TV-show character as much as I hate her,” one poster wrote. The consensus among the haters was clear: Skyler was a ball-and-chain, a drag, a shrew, an “annoying bitch wife.”

This sexism is ridiculous. If women really behaved the way some of these idiots think they should, they’d have even less respect for women than they do now.

Then we have the hatred of Gunn herself. Holy shit how ridiculous is this? She didn’t write the character, she portrays Skyler as written and directed. Yes, Gunn absolutely brings her own strengths to the character and makes Skyler her own, but she’s not the one dictating Skyler’s actions. You hate Skyler White? Complain to Vince Gilligan.

It also demonstrates how people can’t separate the persona from the actress, and it’s a scary side of celebrity culture. People fall in love with characters and fawn all over the celebrities, without thinking the actor is very likely someone completely different from whom they are portraying.

Anna Gunn played a very different wife in Deadwood. Did she catch any flack for that one? If so, certainly not on this level. Do these same people expect Bryan Cranston to be Walter White or the bumbling Hal from Malcolm in the Middle? He can’t be both, but he’s a dude so he gets a pass.

I find a little comfort in knowing these same people wouldn’t have the stones to say things like “could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?” if they weren’t sheltered by the anonymity of an online account and the distance of a keyboard. However, we need to squash this behavior. Our school band director has a great quote on the bulletin board in his classroom: “What you permit you promote.”

When the people managing these forums and comment sections don’t do something about the sexist idiots, and the other users let them run their mouths without confrontation, we’re telling them it’s okay. They get to think their little zinger was so awesome, and then they do it again and again.

If we want to change the behavior, then we need to stop letting it slide. We need to stop saying, “great, another troll,” and move on. How do you kill a troll? Expose them to light. Take away that anonymity. Make them eat the very shit they’re shoveling.

If we don’t, it’s only going to get worse.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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