“Breaking Bad” and the Internet

Santa Fean actress Anna Gunn of “Breaking Bad” wrote a thoughtful piece in the New York Times this weekend about online hatred for her character Skyler White. She recounts reading online comments from the show’s fans, including “Could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?” Toward the end of the article, she says “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.”

The internet is not me. It’s not you. It’s not us. It’s stupid.

This is THE VERY FIRST image that comes up when you Google search "Skyler White"

This is THE VERY FIRST image that comes up when you Google “Skyler White”

Gunn’s article, “I Have a Character Issue,” ran in the Times this past weekend. On the show itself . . .

(Spoiler alert.)

. . . Jesse just realized it was Walt who poisoned Brock. Crying eyes on fire, Jesse comes very close to killing funny, loyal lawyer Saul. Then he speeds to Walt’s empty house with a gas can and breaks in. The episode ends as he’s furiously splashing gas around. The obvious intention is to burn down Walt’s home.

This is why we watch “Breaking Bad.” Narrative insanity; the big, powerful moments this show keeps producing, and then topping, in a sprint over just five more episodes toward the definitive conclusion. “Breaking Bad” is a hard-core gangster saga of tragic death and betrayal, unfolding in the streets and deserts of Albuquerque. No offense to Gunn, who is phenomenal, but no one tunes in to see what happens to Skyler. She’s a supporting character in the truest sense. This show is about Walt and Jesse powering through cartel kingpins and an obsessed and justified police force. (Hank so badly wants revenge.)

The internet doesn’t speak for fans. I’ve watched most of the show twice, even write about it online, and I don’t hate Skyler. Almost every friend I have watches “Breaking Bad” and loves it. None of them goes online after an episode to vent hatred for the characters. We watch it because it’s fun and great.

Gunn writes “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.” It isn’t most people, though. It makes sense that she, personally, would be troubled by the comments online, but that isn’t a representative sample.

Internet comment boards and made-up Facebook pages are the property of idiots acting like junky drug fiends.

Grown-up teeny bopper Miley Cyrus gave this zany performance during the Video Music Awards last night. She was tongue-out air humping in a skin-toned bikini with a foam finger at her crotch. A Huffington Post headline this morning said “Mika EXPLODES Over Miley Cyrus Performance.” Mika Brzezinski co-hosts the MSNBC morning show called “Morning Joe.” The Huffington Post article lists things she said about Miley: “She is a mess,” “They should be ashamed,” “Disgusting,” “Disturbing,” blah, blah, and blah.

Behold The Cycle. Miley Cyrus gives an intentionally offensive performance. Morning news show host talks about being offended. Internet excitedly reports thus. People read it and make their own opinions, influenced consciously or not by what they just read.


The Video Music Awards are famous for offensive performances. It was the same thing when Britney Spears French kissed Madonna, or Kanye crashed Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech. They’re doing it on purpose. Rock stars enjoy pissing people off.

Mika Brzezinski, though, watched Miley and knew it was her job to render an opinion. She hosts a morning news show in Washington D.C., surrounded by corruption corrupting communities country-wide, and her primary objective was Miley Cyrus complaining.

Mika and Joe. This picture is sexist, disgusting, and pathetic.

Mika and Joe. This picture is sexist, disgusting, and pathetic.

She’s on TV, though, so it is her job to render opinions. The problem with the internet is any of us can suddenly feel like we’re on TV, with an audience. Brzezinski has a camera on her; she’s paid to play provocateur. She sees something she can hate and reacts on camera.

A job like that really plays to the ego. If everyone can get that same sensation, of being heard and considered by others, it gives off a whiff of power. You suddenly have a lot of amateurs spouting nonsense to an audience.

Mika Brzezinski giving her opinion is awful, but the wifi-enabled angry American loner is worse.

That’s who Anna Gunn is talking about when she bemoans Skyler-bashing. She’s talking about the Facebooking comment dispensers. Angry, demonic spiritual offspring of soulless TV opinion makers like Brzezinski. (It’s worse in sports. Check out NFL coverage on TV, radio, and the internet. Madness.)

So while I’m sorry Anna Gunn has endured online vitriol because her character keeps failing to corral Heisenberg’s gangster leanings, she should take solace in the fact that those morons spewing bullshit are not real fans of “Breaking Bad.” They can’t be, because they don’t appreciate her. They’re fans of themselves.

Also, a lot of people are great in person but really obnoxious on Facebook and Twitter. One of my best, favorite coworkers I ever had—a smart, funny, interesting family man—is insufferable online. I can’t be his Facebook friend, because the pictures and updates are too annoying. I might also posit that most online assholes aren’t all that bad as actual people. They just forget themselves.


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