I’ve been reading some articles recently on I09 and elsewhere about how people hate certain female characters, and how it seems to be the “strong, independent” female characters people hate. Examples are usually Skylar White from Breaking Bad or Lori Grimes from The Walking Dead. There’s a clear subtext that it’s because of sexism, though the authors don’t come out and say it. Here’s the thing though, they’re completely wrong.
The main reason we know they’re wrong is that it’s not just men who hate these characters. Granted sexism knows no bounds, but it’s false to play the sexism card when it’s not a clear case. This is why the authors of the articles tend to skirt around the issue and only imply that it might have something to do with society punishing strong women. That theory is flawed, however, and they know it. Sure, there’s always a subset of assholes who will hate characters (or real people) for their sex, race, looks, etc. But that’s not what really is going on here. Instead, there is a sort of sexism…but it’s coming from the people who are implying that hating these characters might be sexist. They are missing the key point:
These characters are horrible people who SHOULD be hated!
It’s just that simple. Lori Grimes is a terrible woman. She slept with her husband’s best friend literally days after her husband landed in a coma. Ok, we can forgive that, it was a zombie apocalypse after all. But then she’s a terrible mother, barely keeping track of her son in the middle of said apocalypse, and once she gets her husband back, she dumps the guy who was protecting her until then, drives him nuts with her indecision, and finally gets her husband to kill the guy! And then is all pissed about it! She’s a terrible mother, a terrible human being, and eventually is pretty much the one person you don’t ever want in your group if there’s a zombie apocalypse. So the audience hates her…not because she’s a strong woman, but because she’s a fucking bitch.
Let’s examine Skylar White. She starts out as a nagging shrew…this isn’t the audience’s fault. That’s how she was written, and she’s clearly a part of the reason Walter falls from grace. Hell, she’s pretty much the main reason. She is the impetus that turns a good man into a monster. And once she finds out what’s really going on? She goes into ultra bitch mode while enjoying the fruits of Walter’s meth business. She’s a terrible human being, just like Lori. Granted, Walter and Jesse are worse, in their own way, but she is no better. She’s not a role model, folks.
So why is she, and Lori, and all the other horrible female characters, defended via implied sexism and “just asking questions” articles? I believe the answer is because of a kind of sexism – putting women on a pedestal. Women are human beings, just like men. They make mistakes. They stink up the place. They can be idiots. They can be geniuses who have no empathy. They can fuck life up royally. Just because they are physically attractive doesn’t mean they can’t be horrible people.
These authors are, whether they know it or not, cutting slack to these characters that they wouldn’t cut for male characters. There are reviled male characters as well. You don’t see people asking “why do we hate the Governor so much?” or “Why is Shane such a hated character?” We KNOW why they are hated – they are terrible people. But put a woman in the same situation, and you get instant white knightery. They don’t even realize they are doing it.
Look, Lori, as my primary example, is HORRIBLE. She has very, very few redeeming qualities. Carol is much more human, or even Andrea, though she inherited a lot of Lori’s bad shit. Blame the writers there. It’s totally ok to hate the bad characters. Yes, it puts you in the same group as the sexists who will hate them for their gender, but that’s ok. You can wear the same color shirt as a racist and not BE racist! You can like the same music as a skinhead and not BE a skinhead. And you can hate female characters and not be a sexist.
Now one thing I will admit is it’s high time we have a female villain who is as sexy as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. We root for Loki, because he is awesome. There are no female villains I can think of who match that, but I think that has a lot more to do with Hiddleston being six flavors of godly than anything else. I mean, seriously, no one is making Red Skull or Mandarin sex pillows…