Five years ago, a new HBO series made a splash by receiving four Emmy nominations in major categories — proving the show was here to stir things up and break some ground. Sure, Girls didn't take home any trophies that year, but creator Lena Dunham's acting, writing, and directing all received ample recognition. Yet when the 2017 Emmy nominees were announced, that same name was noticeably absent. Yes, Girls received a few noms, but when you see what's missing, those nominations are actually really frustrating.
In the Guest Acting In A Comedy Series category, Matthew Rhys and Riz Ahmed are nominated for playing Chuck Palmer and Paul-Louis, respectively. While there's no denying their talent (further proven by Ahmed's other well-deserved 2017 nom for The Night Of) or that they are deserving of Emmys, why is it that the guys who float in and out of Hannah Horvath's life get credit — and the woman who gave them voice does not? While Becky Ann Baker, who plays Hannah's mom, also received a justified Guest Acting nomination, that doesn't take away from the sting of Dunham's snub.
As you may recall, Rhys played Chuck Palmer, an author accused of sexually assaulting female college students on a book tour. In one of the entire series' strongest episodes, Hannah calls him out in an article and he invites her over to his apartment to share his side. Ultimately, she finds out the truth behind the accusations firsthand when he makes a move on her. Though fictional, Palmer embodies any and all men in power who take advantage of the women around them. This episode, "American B*tch," tackled a topic that's often brushed under the rug, yet Dunham didn't even receive a writing nomination for it — let alone an acting one.
This year, there's only one woman in the Outstanding Writing In A Comedy Series category — Master Of None's Lena Waithe, who shares the credit with Aziz Ansari. Dunham's series, which she created, didn't get a single writing shoutout. Again, she's received such nominations in the past, so it's not as if the academy is unfamiliar with her work.
No matter how much talent Rhys displayed in playing him, celebrating the problematic man in "American B*tch," but not the woman who helped bring him and the episode to life, is more than a little infuriating. It's especially frustrating when you consider that it's quite literally an episode in which female victims were previously silenced, and now, the woman speaking out on their behalf isn't getting any acknowledgement. (Whether you take that to mean Dunham's acting as Hannah, or her writing of an episode that portrays an often taboo real-world problem, the sentiment remains.) The way the nominations shook out only furthers the notion that, too often, women don't receive the same recognition as their male counterparts.
The same can be said for Ahmed's nomination, though his chill, rapping surfer boy undeniably is a testament to the actor's range. Paul-Louis is a far cry from the stoic, intense Nasir Khan on The Night Of, or the wise, yet reserved Changez from The Reluctant Fundamentalist. But to credit Paul-Louis' role in Girls and not the woman alongside him feels like a major misstep.
Paul-Louis is notably absent in his child's life (and, of course, that's intentional on Hannah's part), but there's no recognition given to Dunham's character, who struggles through all of the emotions surrounding her pregnancy or the very real reality of raising that same kid. Other than contributing the baby's ridiculous name, Grover, Paul-Louis does little else. And once again, it's worth noting that Dunham is the one who wrote and directed the first episode Ahmed appeared in. She's greatly responsible for how the character came about.
Given that Season 6 marked the end of Girls, it would've been nice to see the show receive the love it deserves; that same Emmys love it received when it first hit screens in 2012. Dunham is the heart and soul of the show — it simply would not exist without her. To recognize the men surrounding her, yet overlook her role in the whole process, is as disappointing as, well, Paul-Louis' choice in baby name.