There's no getting around it — the TV landscape generally lacks diversity in pretty much every way. Women, people of color, and the LGBT community have all historically been underrepresented on our screens, so it's not necessarily the Emmy Awards' fault that, in the past, nominees and winners have mimicked that trend. But, this year, I think we can finally say there's hope. TV is increasingly becoming more diverse, and it hasn't gone entirely unnoticed by the Emmy committee. For the first time ever, a show that revolves around a transgender character has been nominated in multiple categories. Based on its excellent depiction of a transgender woman, Transparent should also be considered feminist — and it's one of several decidedly feminist shows that have been nominated for Emmy awards this year.
Still, my feminist self is not jumping for joy just yet. There are some definite sins of omission on the nominee list — for example, The Fall received a grand total of zero nominations, leading many of us to believe that it simply must not have been eligible. (It was.) In addition to being critically acclaimed, it provided a top-notch and thought provoking exploration of how society views women. Unfortunately it was skipped over, and, in the main writing and directing categories, only three out 23 Emmy nominees are women.
But, let's take a look at the nominees we do have. From strictly a feminist perspective, these should be our winners:
Comedy Series — Transparent
Showrunner Jill Soloway has made clear that the fight for women's rights needs to include the transgender community, and I couldn't agree more. By realistically and sensitively exploring Maura Pfefferman's transition, Transparent sheds light on what it means to sacrifice male privilege in order to live as your true, female self. Although Maura is hands-down the star of the show, her three adult children also are examining their relationships to gender and sexuality and this thought-provoking show inspires its viewers to do the same.
Drama Series — Orange Is The New Black
Out of all the nominated shows, Orange is the New Black is the one that most easily passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. It has given us a diverse cast of female characters, many of whom initially appear to neatly fit a certain trope — and the show slowly but surely unravels all these stereotypes to show us the women underneath them. Although Orange is the New Black doesn't shy away from the inevitable violence that you'd find at any prison, its representations of female friendship are way more moving than most of the romantic relationships we see on TV.
Lead Actress In A Comedy Series — Amy Schumer for Inside Amy Schumer
Nearly every episode of Inside Amy Schumer explores some aspect of gender roles and female sexuality. She's a risk-taker who's not afraid to make people feel uncomfortable in order to advance awareness of women's issues and the shocking double standards that remain alive and well in today's culture.
Lead Actress In A Drama Series — Viola Davis for How To Get Away With Murder
Davis' Annalise Keating is no hero — and that's why she's a breath of fresh air in the world of TV. Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and countless other shows have unapologetically allowed their male leads to be complex, interesting antiheroes — but women are seldom given the same treatment. In fact, their flaws are typically explained away as being the direct result of some sort of fragility or vulnerability. That's not the case for Annalise, and I applaud a show that's willing to depict a female character's villainy without apologizing for her actions. And, feminism aside, this award should hands-down go to Davis — her performance is pretty darn close to perfect.
Supporting Actress In A Drama Series — Uzo Aduba for Orange Is The New Black
Aduba has played Suzanne aka "Crazy Eyes" to perfection throughout all three seasons. Initially written off by viewers as the volatile lesbian inmate who is only interested in making Piper her prison wife, Crazy Eyes' evolution has been fascinating — especially as we saw her flare for writing develop and her eventual friendship with Maureen blossom.
Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series — Gaby Hoffman for Transparent
Ali, Maura's intelligent but aimless youngest child, is another complex, interesting character on one of the most progressive shows of the year, Transparent. She's exploring her gender and sexuality, but those issues don't take the forefront for her character and she's in no rush to label herself. Rather, Ali is finally taking steps to find herself. She realistically has some hiccups along the way, but I can't wait to see what's next for this great character.
While these are all amazing shows and wonderful portrayals of women, I hope that next year, there's an even more diverse list to pick from. Shoutout to the streaming services (Netflix, Amazon) for their killer shows, but, aside from them, my choices in each category were pretty straightforward. In the future, I hope there will be enough feminist shows on both network TV and online that it will be a challenge to pick a clear winner in each category.
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