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The Emmys are at War With Their Old, White Selves

HoC.jpgIt's the most wonderful day of the year -- Emmy nominations! "Finally," a nation of TV addicts says to itself, "a day just for me, just for me to complain about other people not liking the same TV shows that I like." Every year, lots of people attempt to create stories explaining what, exactly, is happening with the award shows that they also resolutely claim not to care about. Here is one such narrative: The Emmys have kind of, sort of discovered the internet and, like any good white, male television antihero that critics resignedly pay attention to, are now at war with themselves.

Many of the nominees are online favorites who have been riding waves of critical goodwill for years, existing as scrappy underdogs who would probably never get nominated by the stuffy old Emmys. Recent difficulties aside, Amy Schumer's critically-acclaimed comedy is particularly suited to a time when all of her sketches are essentially written about as separate pieces every day. The accumulated tweets bemoaning the fact that Tatiana Maslany would never be nominated for her many-faced performance in Orphan Black could power a small star.

And this year, it seemed like the voters took note -- a lot of the nominations read like redress for a laundry list of things the internet has been complaining about for years. Maslany, of course, but also Schumer, the inclusion of Queen Taraji in the overall excellent Best Actress in a Drama category, and the fact that The Big Bang Theory is finally gone (with the exception of Mayim Bialik), ending its reign of terror along with Jim Parsons. (Bazinga!)

It is easy to imagine a middle-aged white man leaving the Emmys committee voting room, brushing some human remainsoff of his suit after killing a dude who wasn't necessarily evil, but just kind of had to die because these things happen in his line of work. He's coolly smoking a cigarette, then looking out to the camera. "I always wanted to be a good person," he says, "which is why I'm here to nominate Taraji P. Henson for an Emmy." He bangs his hands on a desk for no reason. (This man is also Frank Underwood from House of Cards, a show that has been nominated for many, many Emmys.)

But, as always, some of the choices are truly baffling, at least until you remember who is doing most of the voting -- the white men who run the industry. In particular, Homeland's nomination for Best Drama and Liev Schreiber's for Best Actor, which suggests that Showtime president David Nivens has some kind of weird blackmail tape on half the voters. Also, Jeff Daniels was nominated for The Newsroom, because that was a show that was on the air last year.

The man winks. "I try to be good, but sometimes men just have to do what they have to do. And sometimes that means being bad. You know?" He smiles, winningly, knowing that his inexplicable charisma means that, even though you will be infuriated with him for choosing not to nominate Jane the Virgin for anything other than the show's narrator, you will still come back to watch the ceremony, year after year. If Tatiana can get nominated, why not Gina? He knows that basically not nominating The Americans or Hannibal for anything only makes you love those shows more, and only makes you more grateful for the scraps thrown to them by the Academy, like The Americans' writing nod this year.

This feels like it's been the narrative of the Emmys for the past few years -- as long-standing shows slowly broke in to the nomination pool, and stayed there. It's possible, even likely, that this is because awards shows are always lagging behind critics in their understanding of what's "cool" and "good" at the moment. But it's also indicative of the breadth of tastes that make up "the internet." (For example -- people alternately cheering and jeering Schumer's nomination.) If the Emmys keeps trying to please everyone, they'll likely end up doing what they always do -- pleasing exactly no one.

2015 Major Emmy nominees (full list here):

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama:
  • Jon Hamm, Mad Men
  • Kevin Spacey, House Of Cards
  • Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
  • Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
  • Kyle Chandler, Bloodline
  • Liev Schrieber, Ray Donovan

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama:
  • Claire Danes, Homeland
  • Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
  • Taraji P. Henson, Empire
  • Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
  • Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
  • Robin Wright, House of Cards
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama:
  • Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
  • Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline
  • Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
  • Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
  • Michael Kelly, House of Cards
  • Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama:
  • Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
  • Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
  • Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones
  • Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
  • Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
  • Christine Baranski, The Good Wife

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy: 
  • Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
  • Don Cheadle, House of Lies
  • Louis C.K., Louie
  • William H. Macy, Shameless
  • Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
  • Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
  • Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy:
  • Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
  • Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
  • Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
  • Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
  • Lily Tomlin, Grace And Frankie
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy:
  • Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  • Adam Driver, Girls
  • Keegan-Michael Key, Key and Peele
  • Ty Burrell, Modern Family
  • Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • Tony Hale, Veep
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy:
  • Niecy Nash, Getting On
  • Julie Bowen, Modern Family
  • Allison Janney, Mom
  • Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
  • Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
  • Gaby Hoffman, Transparent
  • Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Outstanding Drama:
  • Downton Abbey
  • Game of Thrones
  • Mad Men
  • House of Cards
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Homeland
  • Better Call Saul
Outstanding Comedy:
  • Louie
  • Modern Family
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Silicon Valley
  • Transparent
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • Veep

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