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For fans of the show, Skyler is apparently the most vile creature ever. She is disgusted by Walter’s actions and refuses to support him. Because of this, there are message boards and forums devoted to hating her, wanting her to die, wanting to hunt down Anna Gunn, the actress, and hurt her. Gunn believes it is because of Skyler’s refusal to “stand by her man” that results in this hatred:

But I finally realized that most people’s hatred of Skyler had little to do with me and a lot to do with their own perception of women and wives. Because Skyler didn’t conform to a comfortable ideal of the archetypical female, she had become a kind of Rorschach test for society, a measure of our attitudes toward gender.NYTimes.com

I haven’t seen the show.  What do you guys think?

Interested writers who want to participate must submit a resume, statement of purpose, and a writing sample before Sept. 6, 2013. Writers with no prior publishing credits are eligible. 

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

19 Comments

  1. Evangeline
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 05:42:35

    I’d love for romance writers with an MFA in Creative Writing to offer a romance-based workshop along the lines of this UoI workshop (or even like Clarion). It seems like it should be a natural outcome from the rise of romance scholarship in academia…

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  2. Ren
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 05:45:04

    I took an instant dislike to Skyler because she was constantly all over a dying man’s ass for not putting HER feelings at the forefront of his thoughts for every remaining second of his stressed-out, hurking-up-blood life. I think it’s actually pretty reasonable that she wasn’t all “My husband’s a drug kingpin and I, my children, and everyone else I know are now in terrible danger. Yay!”, but obviously mileage varies.

    But it’s always nice to reaffirm I’ve maintained enough of a grip on sanity that it would never cross my mind to make death threats toward an actor whose job is portraying a fictional character that isn’t to my taste.

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  3. cleo
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 06:19:01

    @ Evangaline – McDaniel College has an online program specifically for romance writers. Jennifer Crusie, who has an MFA in writing, is one of the teachers. That’s all I know about it. Except I think Nora Roberts is also somehow involved – maybe she gave them money?

    http://www.mcdaniel.edu/graduate/your-plan/academic-programs/romantic-writing/

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  4. Carolyne
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 07:04:04

    As I recall, the Skyler character has been unpleasant and self-centered from the start. I do recall simply never liking the character “as a person.” She’s reasonably unhappy that her husband is a drug kingpin, willing to accept it when it works to her advantage, unable to understand what might drive someone to that. But, that’s par for the course for pretty much every character in the series–they’re extremely difficult to like. A merciless hitman and a couple of burnout low-level drug dealers may be the most sympathetic characters on the show. I don’t like Skyler.

    Going after the actor shows how the basest impulses are more and more on display. It’s okay to give in to this sort of thing, it seems, with whole support groups to whip up more commentary. Is the actor playing the character who’s currently trying to hunt down the show’s “hero” getting threats? I bet not, since that’s an acceptable “role” for a male character. But Skyler isn’t a gentle, feminine, male accessory, so she isn’t doing what women in stories are meant to do.

    I also assume they don’t want to go after the male writer/producer for creating Skyler, but only a woman for daring to portray her. Some sort of twisted frustration must be driving these folks to blame the actor, and it feels much too close a relative to the anger that motivates people to throw acid in girls’ faces.

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  5. Patricia Eimer
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 07:21:31

    I agree with Caroline and Evangeline. I don’t like Skylar as a character because she’s got an abrasive, self involved, personality that just grates on my nerves and I think Anna Gunn is fabulous at pulling it off.

    But threatening the actress who plays her? That’s just insane.

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  6. Tina
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 07:33:16

    The only time I disliked Skyler was early in the first season when she made Walt’s cancer about her.

    As I watched the show progress over the seasons and have lived with the fear that this woman has had to endure with her husband who devolved into such a monster, there is no way I could ever not sympathize with her.

    I think part of the problem is how these how anti-hero narratives are structured, the untenable place the person (usually the wife) who has to call him on his crap is put in, and the type fandom that surrounds it all.

    Shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Sopranos etc. are written by men who create very charismatic central male characters. These male characters are not good people. They are in fact bad people. But they are given compelling stories, written with a complexity not often found on tv, and are portrayed by incredibly talented actors who are largely responsible for the charisma of the character. Even though they are often time very terrible people, viewers are asked to accept them as protagonists. And they do. They are placed in the space of identifying with and rooting for these guys.

    However these terrible men are given wives who must be witness to the bad behavior of their husbands. These women are also written well and portrayed by excellent actresses, but they are at an immediate disadvantage because they are placed as antagonists to the guys you are rooting for. If fandom looked at the stories really dispassionately they would be a lot more sympathetic to these women who are serially cheated on (Betty, Carmela) or terrorized in more ways that we can count (Skyler).

    I do admit that even now I am so conflicted about kinda hoping Walter (from breaking Bad) doesn’t end too badly. He is super heinous right now, but Bryan Cranston is so superb as him that part of my enjoyment is just watching him bring Walter to life. It is more an appreciation of the art of the whole thing. But never do I forget what Skyler has to put up with.

    Really feel bad that Gunn is getting death threats, though. Beyond the pale!

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  7. Laura Vivanco
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 07:53:48

    @cleo: In 2012 McDaniel College announced that

    McDaniel College has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Nora Roberts Foundation to help advance research and study of romance literature.

    This is the second consecutive year that the college has received funding from Nora Roberts, a best-selling author of more than 200 romance novels.

    The grant from the Nora Roberts Foundation supports McDaniel’s academic minor in romance fiction and an online creative writing course on the subject, in addition to the American romance collection in Hoover Library, which has established McDaniel as one of the few centers for the study of the romance genre.

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  8. Ducky
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 08:21:45

    I have watched BREAKING BAD from the very beginning, it is a great show with fantastic acting from the two main characters and all the supporting cast, including Gunn’s Skyler. Like everybody else Skyler is a complicated character and certainly not always likable, especially in the first season when she was very passive-aggressive and made Walter’s plight all about her. Now she is the one who is laundering Walter’s drug money – so she is certainly “supporting” him. Why have some fans formed an irrational hatred for Skyler and Gunn? Because she has a problem with her husband turning into a ruthless drug-king pin. And the fandom loves Walter White. IMO Walter is a truly fascinating character who has turned into a truly horrible human being. To me the one to root for and the moral center of the show is not Walter or Skyler, or Hank, but Walter’s druggie side-kick Jesse. Who on a lesser show would have been killed off during the first season. I hope Jesse makes it somehow out “okay”.

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  9. CathyKJ
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 08:44:45

    I found Skyler incredibly irritating for the first season – in fact, she was enough of a detractor that I stopped watching the show several years ago. However, I was recently convinced to give it another shot, and after some character development have become much more sympathetic toward Skyler. I don’t always understand or agree with her actions, but I greatly admire her character for her intelligence and creativity in weathering the disaster that her life is becoming. Anna Gunn has acted the hell out of that character, and I’m ashamed to be in the same fandom as people who can’t separate fact from fiction and are threatening her for the words writers put in her mouth.

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  10. DB Cooper
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 09:09:07

    Kind of playing off of what @Carolyne said, but approaching from a different angle.

    One day in my early youth, I was watching a show (or a movie) on TV at a family friends house. I went on a mini-rant about how this one woman was driving me nuts, how much I hated her and how angry she made me every time she came on the screen.

    And the friend turned to me and said “Well, that means she was well written.”

    Uh, yeah. I never looked at things the same way again. In fact, while “villains of the week” are meant to be boring and disposable, I think when it comes to “long term antagonists”, a boring antagonist is a bigger crime than a boring hero.

    I suppose you could say I had a “a fortunate childhood education” in that experience–but I still think its a terrible shame (and absurdity) that people out there can’t separate reality from the intended manipulation art has on them as part of their entertainment.

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  11. DB Cooper
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 09:23:14

    @Tina:

    I haven’t watched a single episode of Breaking Bad, so I can’t really comment on specifics about Skyler, but I can say your post reminded me about the article Jane linked to last week (I think), the one about the author saying “Why I hate Strong Female Characters.”

    I really think one of the things we need to see are more female psychopaths, serial killers, sexpots, (selfish) thieves, booze runners, crime lords and dead beats. I acknowledge that will probably leave us as a society feeling in an uncomfortable place (rightfully or not), so it’s not a magic formula where 2+2 instantly gets you 4, but yeah, if we want stronger female characters, we need females to portray “stronger characters”, not “stronger” characters. A little bit of time, and a little bit of work, and I hope we’ll get there.

    Oh, and not to directly challenge your assertion on Mad Men, since a man was behind the original concept and continues to be the showrunner, but one of the things I found most interesting about the “behind the scenes” of the show was that the majority of the writing staff were women. Several of them, as I recall reading once, writing about the sort of experiences they weren’t allowed to discuss or acknowledge or portray in the past.

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  12. Tabs
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 09:56:12

    Maureen Ryan wrote a really interesting editorial on Anna Gunn’s piece that addresses the lack of multi-dimensional female characters on the television landscape: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3810989

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  13. Robin Bayne
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 13:26:22

    Years ago I took a by-mail writing course with Univ of Iowa. It was a good course, but I was left with the impression I would have received an A instead of a B+ had I not written romance.

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  14. Tina
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 13:51:11

    @DB Cooper:

    Funny enough, I did comment on that earlier thread invoking Skyler White as an example of a strong female character.

    Regarding the female writers of Mad Men, yeah I wasn’t necessarily making a point about the writers I mentioned being male, but it is kind of telling that the creators and visionaries of these shows are largely male and their ‘normal’ is centering a show around a white, male protagonist. You can’t help but wonder what Skyler’s reception would have been had the roles been reversed and she had been the one who became the meth drug kingpin and Walt was her hapless husband.

    Interestingly enough Shonda Rhimes kind of does this with Scandal. She did a great interview with NY Magazine where she joked that the white, male protagonist in her show, the president Fitz played by Tony Goldwyn was placed in the role of the”pretty girl that all the men are trying to save.” Meanwhile Olivia is the central gray ambiguous figure who embraces ruthless pragmatism over sentiment. While she is not as monstrous as Walter White, she is still positioned somewhat in an anti-hero role. Also interesting is that the fandom for that show saves most of it’s scorn not for Mellie (the wife who would act as a buzzkill for the illicit love of Olivia and Fitz) but for any male characters that come between them, i .e. the male equivalents of Skyler White.

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  15. cleo
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 14:11:12

    @Tina: That’s a fascinating comment about Scandal. I’ve stopped watching series t.v. – even though there are lot of great shows on that I keep hearing good things about, I’m just not in a t.v. watching mode right now – but I’m really enjoying reading about t.v. series right now.

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  16. Evangeline
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 15:20:03

    @cleo: Ah…but it apparently isn’t as renowned or influential on the romance genre as Clarion is for SFF…:/

    @DB Cooper: MM’s writers being predominantly women hasn’t stopped the fandom from despising any female character that does not prop up Don Draper. The hatred Megan receives from the audience is quite virulent, and Betty is only viewed through rose-colored glasses now that she’s not with Don. Lots of people want to pair Joan or Peggy with Don, but I’m sure that if that happened and they called him out on his extreme case of BS, they’d receive their own fair share of hatred.

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  17. Isobel Carr
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 15:44:15

    @Evangeline: There’s a genre MFA program that does romance. One of my friends got her MFA from them. I think it was mostly a summer program (you attended multiple summers). Personally, as someone who has an MFA, I think the workshops offered online do a damn good job of offering the kind of lessons most new writers need. But I could see that expanding them into something longer (and where work was graded or at least edited and commented upon) would be an interesting idea.

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  18. Carolyne
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 16:06:08

    @DB Cooper: For a female psychopath, not-quite-serial killer, sexpot, selfish thief, boozer, con artist, and deadbeat, the character Miriam Black from Chuck Wendig’s dark psychological fantasy novels starting with Blackbirds and Mockingbird may be just the thing we’re all looking for. (Here he is talking about “strong” female characters, which I think someone might have linked to here before.) Sometimes I like what he’s done with Miriam, sometimes I think he dips too much into the “typical traumas for ladies” well. There’s a little bit of romance… um… sort of? But she’s a great stab at a female antihero. Also, there is a lot of stabbing.

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  19. DB Cooper
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 07:01:46

    @Tina, @Evangeline: Points taken, and I think I quite well agree. If I watched more TV, I’d love to see a Breaking Bad centered around a meth kingpin woman and her hapless husband. And I’ll file away Scandal in my mind just in case I get a chance to peek at something new.

    Also, count my on the other side of the line that never wants to see Joan or Peggy with Don. But you know, I feel that way because I’ve formed my own little islands around them in my head (with what little I’ve watched) and they’re all on separate islands. :D

    @Carolyne: Believe it or not, as slow as I read, I think I do more reading than TV watching. Consider Blackbirds on my very short (but very slow) TBR queue. Thanks!

    And thanks all for sharing your opinions and your thoughts, you know, without wanting to kill any commenters, characters or actors. :D

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