Skyler White: Not Your Average Karen
No, this post is not going have Skyler White hate speech. Although many, including myself, hated Skyler from the start of the show for being a Karen, in retrospect it was underserved because she was more of an underdeveloped feminist icon on television. Yes, you read that correct. With a few tweaks here and there, Skyler White could have easily had the perfect feminist portrayal to her character but even with all the limitations there was more than one way she showcased that.
From the beginning of the show the creators depict Skyler as the perfect domesticated housewife; she’s pregnant, she stays at home, cooks for her family, plans her husband’s birthday and lives up to the most mundane standards that are set for married women. But she’s more than just an unassuming woman, she’s smart, she’s not one who’s fooled easily and throughout the show she’s the only one who’s able to look past Walt’s lies. If this is because she’s married to him, I beg to differ; Hank was part of the DEA, and it took him 5 seasons to figure anything out. Skyler however, kept Walt on his toes, always lingering behind him like a shadow.
Skyler was not only of the smartest characters on the show she also had a relatively realistic depiction of women in abusive households. In many movies we see the angry feminist; the one who hates boys, is physically violent, is even more masculine than the men around her but Skyler fit none of those conventional roles (most of the time). Instead,she was realistic because she exercised her agency in ways that compelled Walt to comply to her wishes for example when she cheated on him with Ted, came back and told himimmediately. It infuriated him and the audience, but this was her way of getting back at a man who had jeopardised the safety of his family for pleasing his ego and was coercing her into staying with him. No matter how high the stakes got, Skyler stood firmly for what she believed in. This isn’t to say we don’t see moments where she falters but considering how constrained she was in defying Walt openly she got her way around it every single time.
So if Skyler is really so good why is she one of the most hated characters to exist? The answer to this question lies in introspecting our own internalised misogyny. While Walt goes around melting bodies (quite literally) how dare his wife who earns no penny of her own defy her husband? The entire show is based on the perspective of the men whether that be Walt’s or Jesse’s, we see the women through their eyes only, and this is partly the reason why any act of resistance by Skyler is met with criticism. Hence, through this lens the audience fails to empathise with her and indulges in rampant victim blaming without recognising manifestations of power by her.
In the end no one wins. Not Walt, nor Jesse, nor Hank, nor Marie, but Skyler does. Skyler manages to escape an emotionally abusive criminal husband, Walt Jr recognises his father’s manipulation, she ensures Walt leaves her money for her kids and she is not considered an accomplice in his crime. In the end no one wins, except Skyler.