[Minor Spoilers for "The Walking Dead", some Kate-related Spoilers for "Lost"]
Like - probably - most of you, I'm very interested in how people react to tv-storytelling, from the mass movements of online forums and comment sections to just... My own circle of friends.
And while I don't have any statistical data to back this up, it seems to me that (particularly?) on otherwise very popular shows, there's one female character that is somewhat controversial.
There's Kate from "Lost", Laurie from "The Walking Dead", there are Rita and Skyler in kind of similar roles on "Dexter" and "Breaking Bad", respectively, and while I've so far only watched season one of that show, Betty Draper from "Mad Men" seems to have made some enemies as well. There are also a lot of discussions involving Catelyn from "Game of Thrones", although that might be more of a thing in the book-specific part of the fandom.
Now, obviously, there is a difference between "not liking a character" and "not liking the way a character is written". Two (female) friends of mine have a considerable problem with Kate and Ana Lucia ("Lost") and I'm not sure if it's because the writing is bad or because the writing is good. (Or because Kate is stranded on an island full of beautiful people while they are stuck with... Well, me. I'm okay, but maybe I should get some mysterious tattoos that don't mean anything.)
I consider Skyler and Rita to be good people that I probably wouldn't have any negative feelings towards in real life. But they are functioning at times as a "problem" for the (not quite as good) main character of the show. The constant questioning of "What is going on?" can get annoying, even if it is completely justified. (And with Walter White, you usually get a very quotable answer for the ages, so... I'm glad, Skyler asked!)
And my theory is that - in these cases - viewers dislike the role, when they seem to dislike the (fictional) person. However, I'd argue that someone needs to play that role. If you want to have a story where the main character has two lives, it would be weird if those two worlds didn't come into conflict with each other and if nobody made the case for the family, so to say, if nobody represented the life that the main character either had or could have.
In other words, this might not be about how the writers portray female characters. And it might not be about male 20-something viewers having trouble empathizing with a mother. Maybe both those things play into it, but the problem might just be the role of the wife or the role of the mother.
And then there is "The Walking Dead" and Laurie. Now... I liked Kate. I don't think "Lost" had as much story for her as it had screentime, but I still liked having her around, even if she was the weakest part of anything. Even if she didn't have a lot of impact on the main plot and the subplots that she was involved in were often very typical "female-but-not-main-character" storylines (the love triangle, being or playing a mother, etc.). I could still understand why Kate did what she did.
With Laurie, these problems feel bigger, to the point where 1) she's made "jumps" or decisions that I just couldn't follow and 2) she's not involved in any subplots that don't revolve around her being a wife or her being a mother or her having (had) an affair. Maybe I have those problems with her storylines because I'm a guy. Or maybe it's because a lot of writers are guys? Still, why can't she be more like Buffy? ;-)
Anyway, before I ramble on and on... I'll stop here and ask if any of you have thoughts on this issue?