The Emmys Don’t Matter But Hypothetically If They Mattered They Should Not Have Snubbed Orphan Black

This looks like a picture of Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning on Orphan Black, but actually it is how I looked at my desk this morning when I found out Maslany didn’t get nominated for an Emmy. CREDIT: © STEVE WILKIE FOR BBC AMERICA
This looks like a picture of Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning on Orphan Black, but actually it is how I looked at my desk this morning when I found out Maslany didn’t get nominated for an Emmy. CREDIT: © STEVE WILKIE FOR BBC AMERICA

The Emmys don’t matter. They really, really don’t, because Buffy never got one, and The Wire never got one, and we all know that awards are silly and outrage is useless.

The Emmys don’t matter, but they do reveal: they reveal a value set among a small but influential group of people. Award shows act as a kind of pulse-taking of the respectable mainstream point of view: what are we watching, and what do we want people to know we’re watching because we think we’re so smart and cool for watching it? What performances left us gobsmacked? What famous people do we want to see in all the afterparty photos?

If I were in charge of the Emmys, this year’s Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama nominees would have been: Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning, Tatiana Maslany As Helena, Tatiana Maslany as Alison Hendrix, Tatiana Maslany as Cosima Niehaus, and Keri Russell.

But I am not in charge of the Emmys. Instead, I am just in charge of this slice of internet real estate, where I will suggest that this year the Emmys snubbed two shows that are have excellent, subversive, and challenging themes, and replaced them with shows that either are as safe as they appear or are only subversive on the surface.


In addition to being awesome, Orphan Black is an explicitly feminist show: an exploration of female agency that is constantly demanding we step up and decide who has the right to determine what happens to a woman’s body, her reproductive system, her children, and her future.

The Americans, where Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are literally and figuratively killing it, is a drama about marriage disguised in hilarious wigs as a show about spies and espionage. The issues at its core are domestic: how to be married, how to raise a family. It’s the wife in the show who is the more ruthless of the pair, the one who will do whatever it takes, and the husband who has the softer, more natural relationship with his kids. Her work is her life; he worries, you could say, about work-life balance. (Caveat: Margo Martindale was nominated for her excellent guest turn as Claudia, but THAT IS NOT ENOUGH.)

Here are some of the dramas that got nominations instead: The Newsroom, a show that is not good* and is a case study in misogyny through snappy dialogue; Downton Abbey, a show that is not good* and is set far enough in the past that it counts as progress for women when a lady can marry herself out of a lousy family situation; True Detective, which is totally a miniseries no matter what HBO says, and for all its philosophical ramblings just plays into an existing, unsurprising narrative in which women are wives or whores or corpses, left to be raped or killed or disregarded; and House of Cards, which is going to be a new paragraph.

House of Cards’s second season was not good* and, on top of committing the cardinal sin in entertainment of not being entertaining, was jam-packed with you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me gratuitous scenes of lithe, young women hooking up in a hideout house and a lithe, young female bartender having sex with the old, balding, charisma-less Doug, or the lithe, young Chinese prostitutes who also hit on Doug. The only remotely exciting thing that happened on the show was when the (lithe, young) Zoe Barnes left her blood on the Metro tracks. Kate Mara was nominated, for some reason.

Obviously there are some Emmy nods any TV-lover who is also a feminist can be happy to see here even without taking that 30 minute break from her ideals: a whole lot of nominations for Orange Is The New Black, two comedy direction nominations for women (for OITNB and Modern Family), a nomination for Moira Walley-Beckett’s writing of Breaking Bad’s “Ozymandias,” the best hour of TV of the year/ever, and a writing nomination for the amazing, hilarious Inside Amy Schumer.

Not that I even care. I don’t care at all. The Emmys don’t matter to anyone. Especially not to Clone Club.

*Bad shows can be great! As in, great to watch. But “fun to watch” is not, in and of itself, a metric of excellence, which is theoretically what these awards are designed to recognize. I myself am something of a Pretty Little Liars obsessive, and also sometimes I watch Suits, but they aren’t excellent shows.