Friday, December 7, 2012


Cooking Meth = Fine, Nagging = Bitch

And because television is still written predominantly by men, about men, even the most forward-thinking writers will resort to a certain shorthand when it comes to female characters, says Alyssa Rosenberg, a TV columnist at Slate and the Atlantic. "Skyler nags, Betty is cold and personality-less. Lori is lame and stupid enough to get pregnant during an apocalypse."

Indolent Useless Network Sitcom Husband, meet Aggravated Sprawling AMC Saga Wife.

66 Comments / Post A Comment


My experience has been that the people who look at Skyler and say "Gosh! What a terrible harpy of a nagging wife!" are the same people who like Breaking Bad because Walt is "such a fucking badass." In other words, people to be ignored.


@deepomega I dunno. I hated Skyler, but I also thought Walt was pretty lame in a lot of ways. I didn't make it past season 2.


@deepomega I kind of like Skylar, I think she is a VERY SMART woman. I often find myself defending her in comment threads.
The women on the Walking Dead though are DEFINITELY written terribly, and I hate all of them, but especially Andrea. Well, I don't hate Michonne (and to some extent Maggie), but they have pretty much done nothing with her.


@deepomega Right? I don't know if it would have been better had Vince Gilligan been more like David Chase and actively resented the people who fundamentally misunderstood who the main character of his series was and what points were being made. I feel like the nihilism of the Sopranos only intensified because people seemed to love Tony so much.


@Danzig! Yeah, you could root for Walt in like, maybe the first couple of episodes of the show. If you are still rooting for him now you are not paying attention.


@Megano! Yeah, The Walking Dead reeks of unexamined white dude writing. White dudes without kids, maybe. The way the women and children serve as plot points instead of people.


@Megano! Supposedly Gilligan and the writers weren't sure where to take Walt as a character until the resolution of the Gray Matter plot in S1, when they nailed down exactly who he is (a narcissist) / what drives him (the desire for control over his own life) and basically mapped out the trajectory of the character. It was just a matter of getting him where he's bound to go over however many seasons.


I guess I just like badasses, because I started liking Skylar when she turned into more of one. I don't think I disliked her for nagging, just for being all-around lame in the beginning. I'm behind, so, as someone pointed out below, maybe I will dislike her again for stupid choices to come, just like I dislike what Walter's character turned into.


@Danzig! I think Breaking Bad suffers a bit from Fight Club syndrome, where a show or movie becomes popular as a glamorization of the very things it is satirizing or criticizing. I really started to enjoy the show (which I am still only part of the way through, aaah) when I began viewing it as a rather biting criticism of white male privilege with respect to Walt, rather than "badass dude does badass things". But the whole show is so damn entertaining that it's easy to lose sight of that sometimes.


@TheBourneApproximation It is definitely intentionally about white male privelege, almost everything Walt does is a reaction to his fears of not being man enough, a good enough provider, etc.


Good , I love You!@n


Ugh, please don't make me feel bad for Skyler. She boned Ted and that dude is just as bad as her husband.She doesn't like the meth but she sure doesn't seem to mind the money...or giving ALL of it to her fucking terrible criminal boyfriend. Plus she makes that nag face ALL THE TIME.


@parallel-lines She's not bad, she's just written that way


@parallel-lines I would make nag face all the time if my husband didn't tell me he had cancer. And when he finally told me and I tried to help by getting him the best doctor in town and taking him to a support group, he became increasingly distance and unappreciative. And then he wouldn't talk to me about anything, so I had no idea that he had turned down a generous offer from his rich friends to cover all the medical expenses. So the only thing I can do is go back to my old job, even though I'm 6 MONTHS PREGNANT. Thank god Ted has the hots for me, so it doesn't matter that I'm good at my job. So good, I uncover his massive tax problems. But hey, at least it's a problem I can fix, unlike Walt's cancer.


@lobsterhug So you're saying you're totally indifferent on this topic.

Well, cool then.


@parallel-lines I guess I have a lot of feelings about Skylar that I didn't know existed until this article.

And I've gotten to the point where I see Walt as a frightening sociopath.


Saying "Indolent Useless Network Sitcom Husband, meet Aggravated Sprawling AMC Saga Wife" is a total false equivalence. Yeah, maybe some men get their feelings hurt when they, as main characters, are portrayed as "useless", but there aren't throngs of people insisting that Homer Simpson deserves to die like they do to female characters. In fact, that false equivalence misses the whole point of the article!


@sintaxis Yeah. I get not liking certain characters because of their attitudes, actions, etc. (I never liked Lori or Betty very much, and I cannot stand Andrea on Walking Dead). But instead of calling for their death and demise or celebrating their humiliation, we should be calling for the writers to improve the way these women are written. We should be hoping they'll grow as characters. Like @ironhoneybee said below, it's extremely possible to have female characters, even wives of the "heroes," be treated fairly and with respect. It just doesn't happen very often on TV.*

*See, for exception: Tami Taylor, who was never treated as a harpy even when she disagreed ("foiled") her husband's plans.


I especially feel bad for Skyler when you think about the time frame of Breaking Bad: All four seasons take place in a little less than a year. That's a lot of change and upheaval in a family to take in stride. She's bound to be stressed, aggravated, and confused about the way that her life and her TOTAL HORSE'S ASS of a husband have changed in such a short time.


No, Lori is lame enough to barf up a bunch of "morning-after pills" which wouldn't have done anything anyway. Aaarrgghhh.


The thing that's particularly annoying about Walking Dead is that if you read the comics, Lori isn't a dislikeable character at all! Neither is Andrea, for that matter, who the show's writers are turning into just as big of a female foil as Lori. I understand not sticking verbatim to the comics, but to wholly change the personalities of all the main women characters into boy-crazy and/or conniving harpy bitches does the original work great injustice. The comic writers do a far better job at rounding out and creating compelling, sympathetic female characters with just a few words of dialog and some line drawings than AMC can seem to manage with nearly 3 seasons under their belt.

Short version: AMC hates women; buy the comics instead of watching Walking Dead; and me=giant nerd.

AJ Sparkles

@ironhoneybee I was about to say the same thing. Andrea's character has me the most irate. Her & Michonne, really. We don't even get Michonne until the 2nd season & then Andrea's sleepin with the bad boys & just "a pretty good shot" instead of the goddamn hero.

You still watching, though?

Valley Girl

@AJ Sparkles I skipped season 2 entirely because I was pissed at them delaying Michonne's arrival, and I also apparently skipped out on all the bad writing/justification for all the intensely misogynistic reactions from the "fans". So many assholes think women "need to die" for making decisions they don't agree with.


@AJ Sparkles I gave up after the last episode—although fucking Tyreese FINALLY just showed up, and he's played by Chad Coleman from The Wire. So I was somewhat torn, but you know what? Chad Coleman can't redeem 3 seasons of lazy misogyny.

fondue with cheddar

Spoiler question: I haven't seen season 2 yet. Can I read the article or should I skip it?


@fondue with cheddar Walking Dead? Skip the article, big spoilers.


@fondue with cheddar Big spoilers right at the beginning of the article. I'm waaay behind on The Walking Dead and now I'm a little mad at myself for not thinking before I clicked.

fondue with cheddar

@sophia_h Cool, thanks for the heads-up.


@pajamaralls You have done yourself a favour by not having to watch season 2

fondue with cheddar

@Megano! Aww. I've heard it isn't as good but I'm still going to watch it. I'm just terrible about watching TV on actual TV these days so I always miss the shows I like and end up watching them much later.


Ugh, do not read the comments on that article, I looked at the first one and now I'm gonna be grumpy all day.

Betty annoys me, but I actually hate almost everyone on that show, so I don't get why she gets singled out for the hate. Mad Men is about self-absorbed people doing things that are bad for them -- why is she the one person who isn't allowed to do that?


@sophia_h Completely agree. I stopped watching Mad Men after season 1, and then picked it back up again in season 4. I stopped because I could not figure out who to like. I wasn't really rooting for anyone.

And yeah, that first comment on the article made me want to punch my computer screen.



I think it's fine to dislike Betty. She's written as a pretty unlikeable character, really. I think the bigger issue here is that these types of characters seem to attract an unusually large amount of hate, disproportionate to their crimes. Much as how the show Girls became unbelievably controversial despite a huge number of similar shows about aimless white guys out there. I still have no interest in the show whatsoever, but it's still good to ask why this show in particular (or Betty/Skyler) are The Worst Evar in many viewers' minds.


@TheBourneApproximation I only have an iPad, so I can't block anything. It makes my online life very annoying at times.

Anyone who thinks Betty is more awful than Don needs to rethink a lot of things in life. They may actually be equally awful in different ways which are reactionary to each other, but neither of them wins any prizes. Which I thought was the point of the show.


@sophia_h because she has children...


@queenieliz So does he.


I hated Lori because of her stupid self righteousess, that she didn't know morning after pills were NOT abortificants and her assholish speech to Andrea about knowing her role as a lady. Sucks to be you, Lori.

I also hate Rick pretty thoroughly.


JESUS you would think women were happy that they weren't up on the fucking manic pixie dream girl pedestal they could never live up to in real life.

But nooooooo. You spend precious manhours writing chick characters realistic enough that any american man can recognize, cutting out all that over-glorifying pedestal stuff, making the continually downtrodden MAN lose the ability to see a woman he ACTUALLY WANTS in entertainment, and that's not good enough?

Fuck. Sometimes it's enough to make you wish somebody would teach women how to write so they could make their own damn shows* and leave us men alone.

*Not comedy, obviously. Because they Can't. Be. Funny.

Lily Rowan

@leon s Bitches, am I right??


@leon s I might think this sarcastic comment was funnier if it wasn't the same exact thing we hear from men ALL THE TIME and not sarcastically. It hurts, man.


I only watch Mad Men but it drives me crazy when people pillory Betty for being a bad mother but give Don a pass. I got in a fight in the comments (always a brilliant idea) on another site with people who insisted but no Don was really TRYING to be better though. See he really WANTS to be a good dad. But Betty (the person who cares for the children 95% of the time) is a fucking witch.

Betty is probably not the best parent! But Don is also dogshit. Part of this I realize is Weiner et als decision to make the Betty character almost cartoonishly terrible.

Sorry I could go on.


@bluebears I was trying to convince one of my dude friends to watch Mad Men, and he said he couldn't get into because everyone is terrible. And somewhere in my rambling pitch to him, I explained that even though Don is in reality a way worse person/parent than Betty, Don's horribleness is strangely more palatable. But I think my dislike of Betty is born of my obsession with Sally.


@pajamaralls Yeah I feel you. I DO think he's more palatable and that's a direct result in that he's written in this he's terrible BUT...style that encourages us to sympathize. Like oh he can be a dick to his kids sometimes but THE DEMONS so you know. And it's a huge frustration I have with how that Don/Betty relationship is written.


I find none of the characters on Walking Dead that dislikeable. They're just trying to deal with a world in which their more compassionate inclinations have become threats to their own survival. Not completely unlike my life, really.

I feel that, by not hating some of the characters, by not even seeing how they are intended by the writers to be hateable, I'm a bad TV watcher.


I think this is a combination of the way they're written and the way that people perceive female characters. I came across a similar post on Tumblr where it gauges the reactions of Game of Thrones fans:

"Jaime Lannister: At the beginning of the books, I threw a 10 year old child out of a window to try and kill him because he saw me having sex with my sister
Fans: oh jaime you've won us over! that's all in the past now!
Catelyn Stark: At the beginning of the books, I was mean to Jon Snow

Men so often get a pass by fans because of...their maleness? Or, I guess, just by the perpetual tropes of women being either nags and bitches and evil or good and dying early (I'M LOOKING AT YOU SUPERNATURAL AND MERLIN). When a complex female character comes along, people still feel a need to place her into a box. This problem goes waaaaay beyond AMC.


@meetapossum Yeah, I do not get the intense antipathy towards Catelyn Stark at *all*. Cersei I get, given that she's been pretty much written as a storybook villain (hopes for more depth when she was a POV character in books 4/5 = dashed!). But Catelyn...man...

Actually, one thing about Cersei is that I actually think he's become a much better, more sympathetic character in the transition to the HBO adaptation. But maybe that's because Joffrey is standing next to her as a lightening rod for audience hate in most scenes.


@TheBourneApproximation I thought Cersei DID get more depth in her POVs. It didn't make her likeable, but you got a lot more of her motivations straight. Unfortunately, her POVs are crazy and paranoid, so I think that prevents a sympathetic view. You're right about the TV show making her better; she and Robert (and she and Ned) have that nice little scene together where you can tell she really wanted to be with him, and he just wanted Lyanna.

I am baffled by how many people blame Catelyn for the war and Sansa for Ned's death.


@meetapossum Wow, I didn't even know there was so much Catelyn hate. I personally love all the women in the show/books, and they're all so different. I do think Cersei is much better on the show though -- much more nuanced. I always had a bit of the problem in the books with the "prophecy" bit, because like, her son just died and all the men she used to depend on are dead or missing, isn't that enough to make her a bit crazy? I loved her Chatper in Dance with Dragons though.


@meetapossum That is true. GRRM gave us a peek into her brain, and that view was Glenn Beck-esque in its paranoia.


What's really fucking terrifying is how many people responded positively to her "walk" at the end of ADwD. That chapter upset me more than almost anything else in the story to date, but there were still lots of comments with going "Oh good! Nasty bitch finally gets what she deserves!"


@Megano! I guess I should say SPOILERS because I don't know how much I'll reveal.

I actually like the prophecy bits in the books. GRRM isn't concerned about whether they'll be fulfilled, but the way that people react when they hear the prophecies (see also: Voldemort). Melisandre, Stannis, Rhaegar, Dany, and Cersei all react very deliberately to fulfill (or prevent) the prophecies.

Maggy the Frog's prophecy is one of the reasons Cersei becomes such a paranoid mess. She's trying to protect her children and her own place on the throne at every step. I'm of the opinion that Cersei, not Joff, ordered the deaths of Robert's bastards, but I get why they changed that in the show.

@TheBourneApproximation I agree with you. Yes, she's horrible, but geez. Especially after reading her POV chapters, some people still like Robert Baratheon as a character, which I really don't understand at all.


Also, to add on to the whole Catelyn thing, I think a lot of people react strongly to her on the show because Robb has become such an important role. In the books, he's just a side character in others' POVs. In the show, he's come to the forefront (and it angers me more than a little, because ugh, Talisa). So now you've got Bitch Mother disobeying her 20-something king as opposed to a POV of Catelyn trying to advise her 15-year-old son/king.

But, you know, the RW is coming and soon everyone will be singing a different tune.


@TheBourneApproximation OK, I do not like the walk scene for those reasons. I liked it because I thought she handled it with as much grace and strength as was possible, and I really admired her for it. Plus if they get there Lena Headey will KILL THAT SCENE.


@Megano! Okay, that is a good reason to like that scene! Honestly, as awful as it was, it makes me *really* curious about where the character is going in the next book...



Oh Lori, you never could seem to answer that question.


Holy crap. This is just like a conversation I recently had with my friend. He's a 20 something dude, I'm a 20 something female. He has been constantly acting like Skylar is a total bitch ruining Walt's big plan of badassery.

And I was like, "Are you kidding me? She's reacting perfectly fine considering that her husband is cooking meth, running with drug cartels and putting all of their lives at stake. Who cares if she boffed Ted? Her husband went from science teacher to drug lord in the bat of an eyelash."


Is it bad that I think Walt and Skyler deserve each other? That Walt is a horrible, selfish person who throws off any pretension of goodness over the course of the show? And that Skyler, while she has legitimate grevances, makes things worse with all that passive-agressive shit? And that the fact that they (and the rest of the cast) are both deeply flawed, really well-depicted characters makes for compelling TV?

I don't watch the Walking Dead, and I stopped watching Mad Men when they ran over that guy's foot with the tractor, so I can't comment about the other shows.

squid v. whale

If nothing else, this article (and resulting comments) proves how what we bring to a piece of entertainment skews our perception of said entertainment. I don't watch The Walking Dead (nope I don't have regular zombie dreams anyways, NOPE) but I've never understood the Betty/Skylar backlash, and I'm beginning to see why.

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