By: Claire Biggs, Regular Contributor
Even though I didn’t have a chance to watch the Emmys as it aired, I still kept a close eye on Twitter to see how my favorite nominees were doing.
Like most Americans, I crave Breaking Bad wins like meth addicts crave “the blue stuff,” so I was rooting for Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston to take home two more statues. When they lost, I was shocked, like most viewers, apparently, but I still held out hope that the night could be redeemed. After all, the winner for Best Actress in a Drama Series hadn’t been announced yet.
If you had asked me a year ago who I wanted to take home the award, I probably would have taken you on an emotional journey detailing how Friday Night Lights was one of the best shows of all time, and how it only seems fair that Connie Britton take home an Emmy, even if the show isn’t on the air anymore. It would have been a close call between Connie and Homeland’s Claire Danes, who is phenomenal in her role, but I think Tami Taylor’s portrayer would have edged her out as my pick.
Flash-forward to Sunday night, however, and I’m brooding over the loss of a nominee I’ve only recently come to root for in the category: Kerry Washington.
Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope. Image from hollywoodreporter.com
If you haven’t dedicated your Thursday nights to Scandal yet, I have to assume you either have no time to watch any TV shows at all or you just don’t enjoy excellent writing, brilliant acting, and an ensemble cast that puts others to shame. I started watching the show when the first, shortened season aired, but I only recently became a “gladiator,” a fan who loves the show so much it looks more like an obsession than a guilty pleasure.
In fact, there’s no guilt involved.
See, Scandal hits most, if not all, of the right notes. I’ll save my praises of the series in another post, because here I want to talk about one part of the show.
Kerry Washington has been charming viewers for years (“Save the Last Dance,” “Ray”), but she’s really found her niche as D.C.-based fixer Olivia Pope. Washington’s character, the show’s lead, is inspiring for many reasons: she’s intelligent, she’s the top of her field, and she doesn’t take crap from anyone.
And Kerry Washington just happens to be an African-American actress.
If you don’t think that is important, consider this: an African-American actress has never, NEVER, taken home the Emmy award in that category. In fact, only 9 women of color have ever been nominated for the award in the entire 65-year history of the awards show.
Outside of the fact that she deserved to win (seriously, go catch up on the show on Netflix and get back to me with an argument. I won’t hold my breath), Washington’s nomination was a symbol of hope for more representation in Hollywood.
As a white female in my early-to-mid-twenties, I can turn on just about any channel on television and see someone who at least sort-of looks like me. Brown hair? Yep, you’re close enough. White? Well, it would be harder to find someone who isn’t white when you flip through certain channels.
But what about the girls and women who don’t get to see representations of themselves on TV? What happens to them? Do they think their stories are less important?
That’s why Washington’s nomination was so important, in my opinion. It would have also been a slight hat tip to the ABC, a thank you for positioning a woman of color to lead a hit series.
After Danes took the stage, and to be fair, she was fantastic on Homeland last season, Scandal showrunner Shonda Rhimes took to Twitter to share her reaction. She hashtagged the tweet #gladiatorsdontcry.
Head Gladiator, Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes. Image from forbes.com
Well, Shonda, like the gladiators at Olivia Pope & Associates, I’d follow Washington’s character “over a cliff.” I’d be lying if I didn’t shed a tear or two out of frustration and disappointment over Washington’s snub tonight.
I’ll just follow Kerry’s lead, no one reportedly clapped harder for Danes’ win than Washington’s team in the front row, and handle the news with enough grace to make Olivia Pope proud.
About Claire: Claire Biggs landed what she thinks is one of the best jobs in the world writing for MTV’s pro-social blog, MTV Act. She’s a writer who watches too much TV and reads even more books. She’s probably on Twitter (@ClaireMBiggs) right now.