The four wives of AMC
What you should hate about Lori, Skylar, Megan and Betty
Published: Monday, February 17, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 17, 2014 22:02
This article contains mild spoilers for “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Since 2007, AMC bucked its trend of “American Movie Classics” and presented “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead.” With three strong shows redefining critical and popular success for the network, strong anti-heroes such as Rick Grimes, Walter White and Don Draper have emerged. Through powerful characterization, we have championed these strong male characters whose existence comes at the ultimate expense of their female companions: Lori Grimes, Skylar White, Megan Draper and Betty Draper. We’ve failed them through defamatory language and neglecting to assign proper blame to the creative team behind the characters themselves.
As Skylar White’s actress explains in NY Times, “As the one character who consistently opposes Walter and calls him on his lies, Skylar is, in a sense, his antagonist.” What we should also realize is that these antagonistic actions are normal human reactions. Lori, believing her husband to be long dead and needing protection for her son in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, submits to the advances of Shane. Betty demands a divorce after years of infidelity and lies including the fact her husband has been living under a false identity for years. Skylar oscillates between leaving and helping Walt in the wake of numerous deceptions and the revelation of his criminal activity. Megan doesn’t deserve to be left at a motel for disliking orange sherbet and then thrown to the ground and attacked later at her apartment by her husband. Because of our fixation with the success of Rick, Walter and Don, we forget that a majority of their wives’ actions are either making the best of situation or in protection of their children.
In this sense, we’re shielding these men from the “bitchiness” of their wives who unfairly hamper their meth-cooking, cheating and zombie-killing lifestyles. The infidelities, murders and crimes of our anti-heroes pale in comparison the women’s affairs and schemes. Words like nag, gold-digger and whore are tossed out. It’s easy to point fingers at the faults of their wives while grading these anti-heroes on a completely differently scale. Fans tend to point out the infidelities of Lori, Skylar and Betty while glossing over those of Don Draper. We’re angry with female characterization, but we’re not asking the real questions about why they suck. We’re not contemplating why we’ve been left with this as our “strong female character.”
To me, Megan always stank of a “Mary Sue” characterization – a wish fulfillment character who suddenly appeared on the scene to earn the love of a male character and was simply perfect at everything. Irritation should be directed at the writers who failed to properly develop the character before she arrived to whisk away the eligible bachelor. Instead of being angry with the wives, instead of calling them fat, instead of threatening the actresses who portray them, ask yourself who is really behind the decision to have Lori try to take a bunch of Plan B pills to try and get rid of her pregnancy? The creative team who created such a weak and pliable character in order to enhance the anti-hero of the tale.
Does it have to be this way? Uh, no. Anti-heroes Spike and Angel made many questionable moral decisions without having to belittle Buffy Summers. Buffy is completely able to and willing to kill both of her vampire loves (and actually does so at one point) in order to save the world, compared to Skylar, who ends the series in near poverty and depleted of all hope and energy, and still doesn’t turn her husband in even though it may mean prison time for her. Contrary to popular belief, a strong female character doesn’t often lead to underdeveloped male counterparts.
Megan, Betty, Skylar and Lori have been the source of disappointment for myself and several fans over the course of their shows, though for different reasons. The hatred has been in many cases exaggerated and worst of all, too few are asking how can we change this. Why are we in such a great decade of anti-heroes, yet television still struggles to provide a female Walter White? Shouldn’t we be disappointed that some of the best shows of the decade leave Skylar, Betty and Megan as their examples of female representation? The age of anti-heroes shouldn’t have to exist at the expense of women beside them, and the blame is best directed at their creators.