clockwise from top left: Lori Grimes (The Walking Dead), Betty Francis (Mad Men), Sarah Linden (The Killing), and Skyler White (Breaking Bad)
This post contains spoilers for the four AMC shows being discussed. All spoilers are contained behind the jump.
As a fan of AMC’s original series, I’ve begun to notice a strange trend when it comes to the way people have reacted to the women on these shows, specifically:
The Walking Dead’s Lori Grimes, Zombie Apocalypse Survivor
Mad Men’s Betty Francis, Homemaker
The Killing’s Sarah Linden, Homicide Detective
Breaking Bad’s Skyler White, Homemaker
This is how these women have been described by various recaps and reviews:
and the actress who portrays Skyler White, Anna Gunn, discussed that she is found to be an “annoyance” on the show, in an interview with Vulture.
If you haven’t watched some or any of these shows, you might be wondering what awful behaviors and actions have lead to such strong hate among viewers. To very briefly recap the storylines of each of the women listed and pictured above: (SPOILERS Within)
Skyler is the wife of Walter White and mother of their two children. Walter was diagnosed with cancer, and uses his chemistry background to become a meth kingpin to pay for chemotherapy, and raise money for when (he assumes) the cancer will kill him. When Skyler learns of this, she seeks a divorce, and cheats on him with her boss. She later changes her mind, and uses her financial expertise to help him launder the millions he’s made from cooking illegal drugs.
Betty Francis is a former model who married Don Draper. Don spent their entire marriage cheating on her and being an absentee father and husband. When she found out about his countless affairs, and the fact that he literally wasn’t who he claimed to be, she divorced him and married Henry Francis. She’s spent most of the series unhappy with her circumstances and life.
Lori Grimes is the wife of Rick Grimes, and mother of Carl Grimes. Rick is an officer, who is shot in the line of duty a few days before the zombie apocalypse. He’s in a coma when the undead rise, and Lori flees with Carl and Rick’s partner, Shane (who claims Rick is dead.) Lori seeks sollace and safety with Shane, as the zombies slowly take over. Rick wasn’t dead (and Shane’s a liar), so she ditches Shane, and returns to Rick.
Sarah Linden grew up as a foster child, and is currently a homicide detective for the Seattle Police Department. She becomes unhealthily obsessed with her last case, the murder of teenager Rosie Larsen. She cancels her wedding, stops eating and sleeping, and becomes an absentee mother as her obsession with solving the murder grows.
Which leads to me to the question: why are these women so strongly hated while the men get a pass? Walter White’s a badass, Jesse Pinkman’s hilarious, Don Draper is unbelievably cool and suave, Roger Sterling is funny, Rick is a leader, Shane was just being honest, Holder is a great cop. But Betty, Skyler, Lori, and Linden are mean bitches and horrible mothers.
So – what has caused such a strong, angry reaction from the fans of these shows?
Is the hatred exclusively attributable to the fans? It’s possible much of the anger is due to a lack of understanding of the circumstances of these women. Betty Francis is living in a time where women were supposed to be happy and fulfilled by cooking, cleaning, and raising children. Sarah Linden isn’t the best detective on earth, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility to believe that some police cases take some wrong turns. The zombie apocalypse genre (in film, TV, and video games) are usually filled with people making bad or rash decisions. And I certainly don’t think Skyler White was overreacting when she found out her husband is slowly morphing from “Mr. Chips into Scarface.”
The other possibility is that the writers are at fault. Three of the four women listed above are secondary or supporting to the main character. The main focus of Mad Men is Don Draper, for the Walking Dead, it’s Rick Grimes, and Breaking Bad is the story of Walter White. This might be a case of the writers using women for the purpose of driving the story of their protagonists. Lori, Betty, and Skyler have all been sources of conflict for the men listed above, in some ways, hindering the “fun” the guys are having. However, this possible link between the four women falls flat when you add Linden into the mix. While Lori, Betty, and Skyler are all secondary characters, Sarah Linden is the main focus of The Killing. If the theory above was one hundred percent of the reason, then it would hold true that Stephen Holder, Linden’s partner would be hated. Despite the fact that he occasionally drives Linden’s story forward, and provides a source of conflict (much like the women in the other shows do), he is loved by fans.
My personal theory is that it’s a bit of both. I’m sympathetic to the time period Betty Draper lived in, but wished the writers spent more time with her. I think Lori makes some really terrible decisions, but we’ve only seen her during a zombie apocalypse – a time I think we can all agree that would lead to some chaotic and frantic behavior. Sarah Linden isn’t mother of the year by any stretch, but the wrtiting on the Killing could certainly use some improvements. Skyler White may not have reacted to the reveal of where Walter had been during his mysterious disappearances in the best possible way. But for the most part, I don’t understand why these women are all so despised.
I’m curious to hear what everyone else thinks – so whether you watch one show, some of them, or all, leave your theories in the comments. Why do people love to hate the women of the AMC Original Series?