AMC’s Infamous Criminal Partnerships: Suppressing the Female Antihero

Melissa Vosen Callens
North Dakota State University
Fargo, ND, USA


Using a feminist lens, the author argues that audiences have failed to embrace female characters on AMC as antiheroes, particularly when they are in romantic relationships with male antiheroes, for three primary reasons. First, female characters often challenge binary thinking, and thus, gender role stereotypes. Rather than exhibiting passive, yet nurturing characteristics, characteristics often associated with femininity and motherhood, female characters within the dataset frequently challenge their partners and exert their dominance. Second, writers often fail to fully develop female characters. The absence of their backstories (who they are and what they are thinking) makes it difficult for audiences to relate to and sympathize with these characters. Finally, within the dataset, female characters are rarely viewed as equals in the eyes of their male partners, and the audience takes cues from this treatment. When female characters are childless and/or respected by their male partners, they are more widely accepted as antiheroes. 

In this paper, the author examines some of the most famous criminal antihero partnerships in the top-rated AMC series over the last decade: Walter and Skyler White (Breaking Bad), Rick and Lori Grimes / Rick Grimes and Michonne (The Walking Dead), Don and Betty Draper (Mad Men), and Saul Goodman and Kim Wexler (Better Call Saul). Following this critique, the broader cultural implications of these representations are offered, particularly the disempowerment of women through motherhood.

Keywords: AMC, antihero, feminist criticism, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul


Author Bio

Melissa Vosen Callens is currently an associate professor of practice in instructional design and communication at North Dakota State University, Fargo. Her areas of research and teaching interest include Popular Culture and Online Education. Her writing can be found in The Ultimate Walking Dead and Philosophy, English Journal, Communication Teacher, Hollywood Heroines: The Most Influential Women in Film History, and A Sense of Community: Essays on the Television Series and Its Fandom, among other publications.


Suggested Citation

Vosen Callens, M. (2019). AMC’s infamous criminal partnerships: Suppressing the female antihero. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 6(2).

Vosen Callens, Melissa. AMC’s Infamous Criminal Partnerships: Suppressing the Female Antihero. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 6, no. 2. Retreived from

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