So I’ve been thinking a lot about Anna Gunn’s fabulous New York Times piece about the vitriol leveled at Skyler White and other characters who “won’t suffer silently or “stand by her man."" (She goes on to list TV wives Carmela Soprano and Betty Draper as other examples of this phenomenon.) Certainly the Internet is a hyperbolic place, but you can’t deny that there is a certain hatred for Betty Draper that we don’t see for Don.
Mesdames et Messieurs: I’m guilty of this.
On Game of Thrones my favorite character is a dude who nonchalantly pushed a 6 year old out a 5th story window after fucking his own sister and one of my least favorite characters is a devoted and intelligent wife and mother who busts out of her traditional female role and dedicates herself to her son’s just and noble rebellion.
I adore drug dealing murders Walter, Jesse, and Gustavo—I revel in their moral complexity and villainy—but Skyler (in the past) has irked me (I love her now). I want to bang negligent father, misogynist, and asshole Don Draper, but I don’t even love to hate Betty. I just want her to go away and never come back.
So… does this mean I hate women? I don’t think so, but I don’t think I get off the hook with a mere “to each her own” or “No, I don’t hate them because they’re women. I hate them and they happen to be women.” Because… my, my: how convenient.
Don’t get me wrong: I will stand by all of my opinions. Cat is a prat, Skyler reminds me of a lot of people who annoy me in real life, and as a woman and a mother, I want to smack Betty in the face. I don’t think these opinions are invalid, and I don’t think I am a straight up traitor to my sex to dislike any of these characters. (Neither do I think that I am some tool of the patriarchy for appreciating the complexity of a well-written, problematic—even evil—man.) But, I have to acknowledge my willingness to accept (and celebrate) evil, weakness, abuse, and a shirking of responsibility in men that I have not equally afforded women, specifically, I think, wives and/or mothers.
Like a whole lot of other people, I’ve been trained to expect women/wives/mothers to fit a particular mold whereas men/husbands/fathers are allowed more freedom within those roles. I don’t expect to shed that influence over night, but I’m working on confronting it by trying to ask myself a lot of questions and being aware of this (at least potential) bias. Why am I more willing to embrace Jaime over Cat? Al Swearengen over Alma Garret-Ellsworth? Why does my friend admit to loving Walt but when it comes to Nancy from Weeds he admits that his first thought is (problematically) “Jesus, who is watching your CHILDREN!?” If I’m going to be as critical a cultural commenter as I pretend to be online, I don’t think I can stop asking myself uncomfortable questions when it is inconvenient to do so.