Ordinarily, we’d kick off our Emmy coverage with posts about the acting categories first, but I can’t really sit on my rage for 4 posts, so I’m calling shenanigans on the Outstanding Drama Series category before I burst. What do you MEAN The Good Wife is not nominated?!?!
One of the two best programmes on tv (and the other one, Parks and Recreation, isn’t eligible for an Outstanding Drama nom yet didn’t score an Outstanding Comedy nom either – ARGH) TGW had a revolutionary season, burning its own house down with plotting as brave and risky as it was intelligent and devastating, and still managed to be both insanely entertaining and funny as all get-out. And yet DOWNTON ABBEY gets the nod again instead?! What is WRONG with the people nominating for this thing?
It’s not as if they aren’t watching TGW – they must be, since it scored big in the acting categories but that’s a post for another day – so the Orphan Black explanation (niche programme on a niche channel with miniscule ratings where the acting and tech work are much better than the show itself – it was never going to be nominated) doesn’t apply. But one thing OB and TGW have in common, besides not being nominated for a Drama Series Emmy this year, is that they’re both fronted by complex and powerful female characters.
TGW is about a woman striking out on her own and refusing to be defined by her marriage. OB is about a group of women coming together and refusing to be defined by the circumstances of their birth. There are important male characters – more crucially in TGW where Will was a massive part of the story and Peter, Cary and plenty of others are hugely significant – but, for the most part, Alicia and the clones are the ones driving the main plots along. The shows revolve around these women, the challenges they face and the choices they make, often exploring and subverting stereotypes and sexism along the way. (And that’s without even mentioning characters like the magnificent Diane). How many of the shows which were nominated this year can you say that about?
I suppose, on one view, Downton Abbey is all about Lady Mary, the Dowager Countess and their corseted chums, but ITV’s cosy chocolate-box period drama subverting stereotypes and sexism? If you watch it and I’m wrong, tell me, but till then I reserve the right to spit chips.
Especially when I look at some of its fellow nominees. At least Downton Abbey actually has central female characters. The nomination of the misogynist True Detective, a modern show with a defiantly period attitude to women, is hardly a surprise given the praise lavished on it, the undoubted talent (behind and in front of the camera) involved in it and HBO behind it. And in fairness, it looked beautiful and packed an almighty punch. But it also relegated women to entirely agency-free roles: they existed as wives for the men to wrong, mistresses for the men to wrong, prostitutes for the men to wrong, murder victims for the men to…. and so it goes on. Sex objects and victims, whose sole purpose is to suffer at the hands of the male anti-heroes. So, yes, True Detective’s many nominations are not surprising and, on one view (not mine, I hated it) entirely deserved, but they are also utterly depressing.
The domination of the male anti-hero doesn’t stop there, either. Mad Men (long past its best) and last year’s winner Breaking Bad both, in fairness, include (I’m told – I don’t watch the latter) fascinating female characters but they play supporting roles to the central focus: a man who’s bad, often mad, but very exciting to know. Which isn’t a bad thing at all; it can often make for fantastic drama. It’s just a very obvious contrast when set against TGW.
The last two nominees, House of Cards and Game of Thrones, are a bit trickier to pigeonhole, however. I don’t watch House of Cards but opinions on the role of the main character’s wife, Claire Underwood, are both interesting and divided. I do watch Game of Thrones though. Its gender politics can be deeply suspect – the copious amounts of gratuitous female nudity, the disturbing rape-scene-that-wasn’t-meant-to-be-a-rape-scene etc – but its sprawling cast includes anti-heroes, anti-heroines and juicy, complicated roles for everybody. And I love it. But it’s not going to win, is it? Sigh. At least it was nominated. I don’t know who’s going to win this category, but I’m all ranted out, so I’ll take a guess at Breaking Bad since it’s the final, final season and leave it there.