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Friday, March 24, 2023

Emmy Voters Missed a Lot of Key Nominations … Again

Look, 2020 is nothing if not unexpected, on every level. Coronavirus, ongoing racial justice protests in the streets, murder hornets. But then there are some things that seemingly never change. Like the Emmy nominations, which, once again, show some troubling patterns. For every encouraging nod to a small-but-fan-beloved show or actor, there were many who were overlooked in a way that feels like more than just a snub.


First, let’s start with the good stuff. Watchmen, which had about a 50/50 shot of being watchable let alone award-worthy when it was announced (hey, it’s based on a complicated graphic novel that heretofore seemed allergic to adaptation), got a staggering 26 nominations, including one for living legend Regina King. Meanwhile, in another corner or GenreLand, Disney+’s The Mandalorian got a nod for Outstanding Drama Series, alongside heavy hitters like The Crown, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Killing Eve. Sandra Oh’s performance in the latter was nominated once again, and if she doesn’t win this year I swear to god …

Speaking of Outstanding Drama Actress: Zendaya! The former Disney star got a big nomination for her role as a drug-addicted teen in Euphoria, a nod that was extremely well-deserved. Also fitting? Three nominations for Ramy, including for the show’s star and cocreator, Ramy Youssef. A final treat: Three nominations for FX’s quirky vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. (Speaking of treats, quick bites from Quibi got 10 nominations. I am not kidding.)

But here’s the bad news: A lot of people—particularly women—were overlooked. The most egregious example of this are the leads on Pose: The only one nominated, and the only nomination the FX show got, period, was for Billy Porter. To be clear, Porter is incredible—he won the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama last year—but for a show that centers on the experiences of transgender people, the fact that none of the show’s trans leads were nominated feels like a huge fail on the part of the Television Academy. This is true of all of the leads (Mj Rodriguez, who plays Blanca; Indya Moore, who plays Angel; Dominique Jackson, who plays Elektra), and specifically Angelica Ross, who deserved an Outstanding Supporting Actress nod for her devastating performance as Candy in Season 2.

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Also, where is Reese Witherspoon? Despite being in two highly lauded series, The Morning Show and Little Fires Everywhere, she received no nominations. Granted, she was competing in stacked categories, presumably the ones the stars of Pose also should have been nominated in, but considering her male Morning Show costars Steve Carell, Billy Crudup, Martin Short, and Mark Duplass all received nods, something seems amiss. But hey, at least Kerry Washington was recognized for her fantastic performance in Little Fires Everywhere.

Maybe in some ways this is a good sign. There were simply too many stellar performances by women in the last year to honor them all. Also, the prevalence of streaming series like Apple TV+’s Morning Show and Hulu’s Ramy and Little Fires Everywhere proves that the streaming wars have helped create new platforms for excellent prestige television. But a recent analysis by The Los Angeles Times found that from 2015 to 2019 a staggering 82 percent of the nominees in the prime-time Emmy categories were white and that the vast majority of the writing and directing nominations were male—it’s clear the Television Academy that picks the Emmy nominations, and the television industry broadly, has a long way to go.

“As an organization which is open for membership to all individuals working in the television industry, the Television Academy fervently agrees that there is still much work to be done across our industry in regards to representation,” the academy said in a statement to the LA Times. “We feel it is a very positive sign that over the past decade the well-deserved recognition of performers of color has increased from one in 10 to one in three nominees across all performer categories. Clearly that increase in representation has not been equal for all groups, and clearly there is still more to do to improve both gender and racial representation across all categories.”

Perhaps now it is time for the Emmys to learn from the Oscars: Be better.

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