When this year’s Emmy nominations were announced, we felt a thrilling shock of good fortune, which was nice because the shocks we’ve been receiving lately have all been mostly been shocks of outrage and despair. But the Emmys nominated a record number of queer humans and people of color in 2017 and, honestly, we deserve it. We deserve one night to watch our gay favs walk down the red carpet and endure excruciatingly stupid questions from Ryan Seacrest and hoist gold trophies in the air. This Sunday, Carmen Phillips, Natalie, and Heather will be live-blogging the Emmys right here on Autostraddle dot com. We’ll also be unveiling your winners each category, which you can vote for right here!
Our own writers voted just yesterday and came up with some very obviously unbiased and scientific predictions for who’ll be victorious on Sunday night. Our picks are surely in line with all other media outlets.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Lily Tomlin, Grace And Frankie
Written by Rachel
To be clear, I would watch Lily Tomlin in a high school re-enactment of a bad SNL sketch; I think she should receive Emmys for things like brushing her teeth or checking her local garbage pickup schedule. BUT that said, she is especially transcendent in Grace and Frankie. It’s a very cute and warm show, while at the same time being inherently about having your whole entire heart broken and learning to be a person again after it while still having a lot of jagged edges. In the hands of a lesser actor, it would be a role that’s really raw and moving while occasionally being acerbic and funny, and it would still be good! The way Lily Tomlin plays Frankie, it’s a lot on the dry side, as her characters (and actual self) often are — but what we don’t get in heaving sobs we get in these really heartbreaking little moments of fragility and loss (I think about Frankie sitting in the wrong car, like a child trying not to cry after being picked up from school, after the funeral in Season One) that are more so for coming through in a character who’s eye-rolling and breezy 95% of the time.
Frankie is a weird hippie white lady who burns sage and paints giant portraits of her own vulva; it’s hard to imagine sometimes how she can not be a caricature of herself, but the way Lily Tomlin plays her she’s childlike and immature but wise at the same time, even when she’s at her most petulant and flagrantly wrong. (Our own Kayla wrote once that “Tomlin… makes a lot of lines work that shouldn’t, elevating lazy jokes into little treats.”) It wouldn’t be fair to say that she carries the show — Jane Fonda is so masterful at playing someone brittle and hurt and on the edge, and I’m obsessed with June Diane Raphael — but Tomlin’s understanding of someone who’s lived through a lot with enthusiasm and yet still has so, so much growing up to do is really beautiful. Give her an Emmy please! Thank you very much.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Written by Carmen
In addition to being the queer girl’s home team favorite, most critic prediction pools have out actress Kate McKinnon leading by leaps and bounds in this category. She’s as close to a locked win as someone could get. Let me say this: If you’ve seen none of Kate’s other SNL performances last year, please take three minutes to enjoy her impression of Hillary Clinton singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” In her new political autobiography What Happened? Clinton specifically references this performance, which originally aired the Saturday following her election defeat, as an emotional release. I can personally attest that it reached into the most beaten parts of me at a time when my depths of darkness felt insurmountable and instead lit a match. It’s a masterfully multi-layered sketch, simultaneously paying homage to Cohen during the week of his passing, giving deference to Clinton, and seeking to comfort those of us grieving in the audience. Ten months later, I still cannot hear the song without imaging McKinnon, at the piano, in Hillary’s signature pantsuit, telling me to never give up.
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series: Master Of None, “Thanksgiving”
Written by Natalie
Thanksgiving is a story of friendship, family and the progress towards acceptance, told over a series of holiday meals. It breathes new life into the stale coming out episodes and was, unsurprisingly, a near unanimous pick to win among Autostraddle’s staff. With the win, Lena Waithe would become the first black woman (and just the second woman of color) to win an Emmy for comedy writing.
Outstanding Comedy Series: Master of None
Written by Carmen
There is so much to be said about Master of None, and in particular its famed “Thanksgiving” episode. And yes, that standalone episode is simply breathtaking. And yes, I desperately want to see our celebrity girlfriend/ heartthrob Lena Waithe take the stage for putting forth such an intensely personal episode that was probably the best 30 minutes of storytelling I watched last year. That said, Master of None as a whole is an incredibly skillfully executed comedy. Aziz’s commitment to the detailed contours of the honest, at times vulnerable, humanity of his characters strikes a chord. I watched Season Two, Episode Six “New York, I Love You” completely frozen. I was enthralled as Aziz laid bare everything that I love about people, about New York City, and about the randomness of life’s path that connects us all. When I was trading “Treat Yo’Self” memes during the peak of Parks and Recreation, I never would’ve guessed that this deeply reflective comedy would be in Aziz Ansari’s future. (Plus, more Lena Waithe forever and always, thank you. Amen.)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder
Written by Heather
When Viola Davis won her first Emmy in 2015 I screamed — not yelped, legitimately screamed — so loud my cat bolted from the room and didn’t come back out for hours. Do you remember that? The way she threw her hands up and then Taraji jumped into the aisle and they sway hugged so tight? Taraji never even sat back down. “In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can’t seem to get there no-how. I can’t seem to get over that line.” It was Harriet Tubman, but then Davis added her own experience and this truth: “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” She was right and she’s still right. Viola Davis is one of the greatest living actors in the world, and the fact that we get to see her play a brilliant, glorious, complicated, tortured, triumphant, broken, beautiful bisexual woman every week on broadcast network television is frankly unbelievable. In lesser hands, How to Get Away With Murder wouldn’t have made it a full season. She carries it all and elevates it to a place beyond anything written on a page or suggested by a director. She has deserved every award she’s ever been nominated for, and plenty that she hasn’t, and that includes this one. There are some h*ckin’ talented women in this category, but this trophy belongs to her.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Samira Wiley as Moira on The Handmaid’s Tale
Written by Heather
Samira Wiley’s name is on the wind. Orange Is the New Black wasn’t the same show without her and The Handmaid’s Tale wouldn’t have been either. So much of what makes Moira’s narrative so viscerally crushing is seeing and knowing the light that has been extinguished from her life, and if you’re going to tell that story you sure are lucky to find an actress who can shine as bright as the sun. Samira Wiley is the first openly gay Black actress to play two openly gay characters, and watching her second turn manifest itself in a nomination for the industry’s highest honor is so astounding it makes me giddy. Also, geez, she’s such a heartthrob and her smile is like Christmas morning. Let her smile, Hollywood!
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series: The Handmaid’s Tale, “Offred”
Written by Raquel
“I know this must feel very strange. But ordinary is just what you’re used to. This may not seem ordinary to you right now, but after a time it will. This will become ordinary.”
This deeply chilling quote, taken straight from the Margaret Atwood novel it’s based on, exemplifies the strength of The Handmaid’s Tale and its first episode. It’s rare that a film adaptation succeeds in capturing the original work, much less adds to it. But “Offred,” Episode One of the Hulu series, shows a canny eye on the part of the writers for what to keep, what to change, and what to show. The quote is disturbing in the novel — this suggestion that one of humanity’s strengths is to accommodate ourselves to any situation, even our own dehumanization — and it’s brought to full strength when uttered by Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia.
There’s a note by John Ciardi at the beginning of his translation of Dante’s Inferno that says, “When the violin repeats what the piano just has played, it cannot make the same sounds and it can only approximate the same chords. It can, however, make recognizably the same ‘music,’ the same air. But it can do so only when it is as faithful to the self-logic of the violin as it is to the self-logic of the piano.” In much the same way, a good adaptation of a written work succeeds best when it is true both to the self-logic of the writing as the self-logic of television.
That’s the genius of this episode: for the most part, the writers truly thought about what to show, when; what parts are even more meaningful when shown — the wall of dissidents, for example, which gave me a deep, uneasy chill, and the opening where she’s running for her life, we do not know yet from what, desperate and fractured and panting like a hunted animal, precious child in tow — and what parts are best left to the words and our imaginations. The whiplash effect of Offred’s return to her theocratic, controlled reality from her memories—both those harsh and terrifying and quietly sweet — is amplified by the episode’s quick scene changes and tight focus on the women’s faces (another venue of meaning not afforded us from the novel).
The only moment that betrayed this for me was the Salvaging, which in the novel highlighted Offred’s ambivalence, caught between wanting to release the valve of universal, righteous revenge while also feeling uneasy at the animalistic, monstrous violence of it. In the novel this scene is deeply tied to unfolding events and her relationship with Ofglen; in the episode it feels more like an opportunity for shock-value, sensational TV violence.
Nevertheless, the writers were also clearly aware at how contemporary, how uncomfortably near the story is encroaching to our everyday realities. (The best reminder is the line “Fucking Uber” in one of Offred’s flashbacks — placing it disturbingly near our own timeline.) Luckily, they refrained from being too heavy-handed on this point, letting the specificity of the story speak to the universality of the experience of being dehumanized, and acculturated, to deny your own true self.
Outstanding Drama Series: The Handmaid’s Tale
Written by Creatrix Tiara
It’s easy to say that The Handmaid’s Tale is remarkably prescient, but as Margaret Atwood said about the original book, everything that happens in the story has already happened in some way shape or form in the real world. Sex slaves, the reduction of women to breeding stock, stolen children… none of this is new. What we need now are models of resistance, of fighting back and making change – and I deeply appreciate how the TV series is much more forthright about this than than book. Having Offred be a mostly passive observer like in the book would have been too depressing; her very early rebellion, from the moment she says “My name is June”, as well as the pockets of resistance from Ofglen, Moira, and even Ofwarren, shows us that we DON’T have to just let things be. That even as we face immense subjugation, there are still ways to fight back, to assert our own dignity. The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopia, yes, a genre that seems a little too real right now. But it’s also hopepunk: people are fighting, people are building support systems, people are making change. Change IS possible.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie: Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Written by Stef and Molly
Once upon a time, a powerful being took a thread of gold and spun it out, making it finer and longer and stronger than anyone had ever seen. That being then took this amazing thread and spooled it this way and that, into a puddle that began to take shape. “G’day,” the shape said. “I am Nicole Kidman, and I am here to bring you great joy.” From there, she (for the shape identified as a she) took on various other shapes and roles, her eyebrows emblazoning themselves as the most important characters in many shows, especially Moulin Rouge. Nicole Kidman then took on a role Big Little Lies, the HBO hit, and is now up for a small gold being of her very own for her turn as Celeste Wright, whose life looks perfect from the outside but is in fact a horror show of pain and violence on the inside. There is not a more perfect vessel for this role, a being made of gold and china on the outside but steel and fury on the inside, a being so great she could abandon her American accent halfway through an HBO show and no one said a thing to her except, “Thank you for your work; you are a gift to the world.” And Nicole Kidman will hear this and smile, for she knows she’s a gift; she’s the one who spun the thread in the beginning after all.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie: Laura Dern, Big Little Lies
Written by Jenna
I never read the 2014 novel that Big Little Lies is based on, so I went into the miniseries pretty much just thinking: damn, this cast is stacked. And I was right. The show is full to the brim with fantastic performances, but Laura Dern, as on-the-edge-of-unhinged suburban mom Renata Klein, is an absolute scene stealer. Renata, self-absorbed as she seems, could easily be read as a one-dimensional villain, an annoyance more than anything. Dern, however, manages to deftly balance Renata’s wrath with an undercurrent of self-assured righteous conviction. At one point, she actually threatens Reese Witherspoon’s character with the line, “I’ll even get Snow White to sit on your husband’s face.” If that’s not Emmy-worthy, I don’t know what is.
Also, I am here to make sure everyone knows that this Instagram account exists. You’re welcome.
Outstanding Limited Series: Big Little Lies
Written by Valerie Anne
I read the book Big Little Lies, and it was such artful storytelling, I thought for sure that there was no way the show could do it justice, and/or there’s no way I would enjoy it, having already been through all the plot twists, already knowing the answers. But I’ll be the first to admit when I was wrong, and hoo boy I was wrong. The show was beautiful, funny, heart-wrenching, and powerful, with epic performances by epic women throughout. And knowing how it ended didn’t end up taking from my enjoyment at all; in fact, I think it added to it. (If you never read the book, you should go back and watch the series again knowing what you know.) I think they succeeded in a way book adaptations rarely do, and deserves the recognition for it.
Outstanding TV Movie: Black Mirror: San Junipero
Written by Valerie Anne
“San Junipero” should win an Emmy because it was a beautifully crafted story about finding love in a hopeless place. Both within the universe created by the episode itself, and also within the often-bleak universe(s) of Black Mirror as a whole. While still packing the show’s typical existential punch, San Junipero was filled with light, love, ladies, and so. many. amazing. outfits. It was the the epic, cross-dimension love story and the happy ending we rarely get, in the last place I expected to find it; heaven truly is a place on earth.
Outstanding Reality Competition Program: RuPaul’s Drag Race
Written by Carmen
Despite its popularity in the gay community, RuPaul’s Drag Race’s relationship with queer feminists has been more fraught, due in no small part to the show’s history with transmisogyny. Even though I’m a massive fan of drag as an art form, I quit watching after the fourth season, never intending to come back. That was, until I received a text from a friend ahead of Season Nine: “They finally cast Peppermint!”
So many of my most cherished memories involve my friends and I piled together in a tangle of limbs on a couch in the backroom of Barracuda nightclub, waiting for Peppermint’s midnight performance. I was infinitely confident in her talent. But, I also knew that she came out in 2013, and was terrified to see what the show would do with a black trans woman contestant.
To my utter surprise, they stepped up. This season Drag Race took time to have difficult discussions, not only about trans rights, but also the effect of the Pulse shooting on queer Latinx communities, body dysmorphia and eating disorders, the ongoing persecution of gays in Russia, all of which were done with tenderness and compassion. They also continued to be the hardest-working, campiest, fiercest competitive reality show on television. Peppermint ended the year as Runner Up, becoming the first out trans woman contestant to last until the final lip sync! If you watch Drag Race to revel in bitchy gays sniping at each other, then this season admittedly wasn’t for you. But, I’ve always been more invested in watching the show’s artists dedication to their craft. No one else is in their league.
Outstanding Variety Talk Series: Full Frontal With Samantha Bee
Written by Heather
Samantha Bee is fucking furious. She is fucking furious at Bernie Bros and Trump supporters and the conservative punditry machine and the Religious Right and white people and men and men and men. Her rage is incandescent and 2016 is the year she stopped trying to mask it. There is a special kind of catharsis in watching the only woman on late night TV brutalize the hypocrisy and racism and sexism and just plain fucking stupidity of so many Americans with her unrelenting wit. The angrier she gets the better I feel. I want her to win for so many reasons, one of which is I can’t wait to see what she’ll say on that stage.
Outstanding Variety Sketch Series: Drunk History
Written by Mey
Here’s my thing about Drunk History: It’s always been a tremendously funny show that does a great job of highlighting diverse and often forgotten figures from history. This year they had one of their best episodes ever when Crissle West talked about the Stonewall Riots with Alexandra Grey playing Marsha P. Johnson and Trace Lysette and her jumpsuit playing Sylvia Rivera. This is not a joke: a show where comedians get drunk and tell stories from history has maybe the best single episode of TV for trans representation. Also we got to see Aubrey Plaza and Alia Shawkat as Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. That deserves an Emmy by itself.