Damaged, dirty women do well in TV’s Emmy nominations

Nods validate a number of raunchy and troubling performances in both comedy and drama

Reuters July 17, 2015
Amy Schumer was rewarded with her first lead actress nomination for her candid and crude series Inside Amy Schumer. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES: A word of warning to sensitive viewers: Some seriously damaged and foul-mouthed women are winning over the world of television.

The Emmy nominations on Thursday validated a number of raunchy and troubling performances by women in both comedy and drama - lending credence to the idea that likeability is no longer the key to success for female characters.

Take Amy Schumer, rewarded with her first lead actress nomination for her candid and crude Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer.

Then there’s veteran Lily Tomlin, a six-time Emmy winner who pulls no punches as a feisty, sexually explicit woman in her 70s in Netflix’s new comedy Grace and Frankie.

For audiences and critics who have longed to see female actors occupy the anti-hero space that has been so successful for TV’s men in recent years, the wait appears to be over.

“For years, there’s been a huge problem for women, because female characters could not be perceived as being unlikeable,” said Mary McNamara, television critic for the Los Angeles Times.

“Now we’re seeing that’s changing,” she added. “You can have women who are complicated, irritating, bad, who make stupid decisions, are raunchy. You’re seeing a deepening of the female character across the board.”

Uzo Aduba knows something about that, as the woman who plays the deeply damaged Crazy Eyes in Netflix female prison saga Orange Is The New Black and last year won the Emmy for best guest actress in a comedy. She was nominated again on Thursday, this time in the drama supporting actress category.

“What I feel when I watch our show is that a collection of different types of people can actually be engaging to audiences, if the story is true and if it’s honest,” Aduba said.

In a Hollywood long filled with laments over the lack of good parts for women, television gets higher marks than film for pushing the boundaries for females.

“We had a meaningful increase in the number of women nominated in director and writing categories, a terrific amount of diversity in front of the camera, and in storytelling,” said Bruce Rosenblum, Television Academy chairman and CEO.

As it happens, Schumer was also nominated for directing and writing her feminist satire, a no-holds-barred takedown of her ditzy, selfish, promiscuous self.

“I wasn’t surprised given the amount of acclaim,” said Cynthia Littleton, managing editor of television for Variety. “That woman just has momentum on momentum.” 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th,  2015.

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