Emmy Awards: Celebrating the ladies on the small screen

This year saw remarkable performances across the board, but on Monday night the most compelling performances by women will be honored at the 66th Emmy Awards.

Actress Kerry Washington. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Actress Kerry Washington.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
‘The film world is becoming quite flimsy for women. [Producers] are not scared of women on television,” Emmy nominee Julianna Margulies revealed recently in a roundtable panel with other high-profile television actresses.
And why should they be? If anything, 2014 has proven to be a banner year for women. A year where programs showcased formidable, strong, opinionated women, able to navigate around (or destroy) anyone or anything who stands in the way of want they want.
“I was playing a lot of roles where I was defined by my love for some guy and that gets really tedious... there was just – nothing... I had to wait basically for Carrie,” fellow nominee Claire Danes said at the same Hollywood Reporter hosted panel. For Danes – who has won two Emmys for her portrayal of Carrie Mathison in Homeland (and may very well win a third tonight) – the role was obviously worth the wait.
“This is a time to remind people how good the good is in television right now... It’s maybe better than ever,” the evening’s host Seth Meyers told Entertainment Weekly.
And, of course, actors such as Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), Louis CK (Louie), Matthew McConaughey (True Detective), and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) are an integral part of the industry’s stellar programming this year. However, all of those fine gentlemen have won before.
Leaving many of their female counterparts overdue, especially in a year were being a woman on the small screen was a great place to be.
Below are just some examples of the exemplary performances by television actresses this year:
Robin Wright (Claire Underwood) House of Cards:
It’s not wise to cross Claire Underwood. Cunning, shrewd, manipulative and always one step ahead, Claire is a political force to be reckoned with. Even the First Lady was not immune from falling under Claire’s spell of charisma and pseudo friendship only to find that someone like Claire only befriends people in order to serve one primary purpose – climbing up the political food chain with her husband, Frank. It would be easy for an actor to portray Claire as a ruthless pariah with no emotion, but Wright somehow manages to convey a layer of vulnerability behind Claire’s tough exterior. It is unlikely Wright will win Monday night, but it would certainly be a welcome upset if she did.
Kerry Washington (Olivia Pope) Scandal:
It was a rough year for trench coat wearing, wine guzzling, political crisis managing Olivia Pope. Most people would crumble under the pressure of being part of a love triangle, all while working on the reelection of a President (with whom you had an affair). But Olivia Pope is not most people and, during the day, she was able to stay cool and collected. But at night, and alone, viewers were able to see a more fragile side to Pope. Those dual aspects of the character (and the show’s sheer popularity) was impossible for the Academy to ignore.
Lena Dunham (Hannah Horvath) Girls:
It’s easy to hate a character who constantly feels sorry for herself, only talks about her problems, her writing, her ambition and is blind to everyone around her. And yet, there is something lovable that Dunham brings to Hannah.
There are moments where she allows Hannah be utterly exposed and her neurotic and annoying nature becomes endearing. Those moments in Girls are few, but one scene stands out: Hannah, wearing nothing but a teeny-tiny green bikini, standing in the middle of a lavish beach house the girls rented for a weekend, fighting off accusations that she is a negligent friend. It’s a rapid-fire, four-way argument, that accomplishes nothing except to hurt everyone’s feelings.
But it does manage to give a tiny glimpse into the fact that these other three girls are all Hannah has. Plus, emoting in the tiniest of bikinis could not have been easy.
Kate Mulgrew (Galina ‘Red’ Reznikov) Orange is the New Black:
In the female prison drama, every episode reveals the back-story of each inmate in Litchfield.
Through these flashbacks, the viewer sees how poor decision-making, difficult life circumstances and sheer bad luck got each of these women locked away. For Red, it’s easy to envision her pre-Litchfield life consisting of commanding a Russian army. Strong, no-nonsense, resolute. Red gives orders and doesn’t take them. Of course, her real past is far more tragic and less glamorous. It’s a past that involves being singled out as not beautiful enough, rich enough or well-dressed enough by her so-called friends. Mulgrew brings a compelling intensity and wisdom to Red, a woman who doesn’t have much left except for her pride.
Mulgrew probably won’t reach the stage Monday night (that honor will probably go to Academy favorite Allison Janney for Mom), but she can take solace in the fact that she turned in one of the year’s best performances.
Lizzy Caplan (Virginia Johnson) Masters of Sex:
It wasn’t easy for women to be taken seriously in the medical profession in the late 50s. Especially if said woman lacked, oh, every single credential needed to become a doctor. However, due to her ambition, charisma and intelligence, Virginia Johnson, ascends from being a mere secretary to Dr. Bill Master’s research assistant. Together, they conducted one of the most seminal studies on human sexuality at the time. The show, though, is far from clinical. It explores the professional and romantic tension between the two characters, and Kaplan strikes a delicate balance between knowing how to stroke her boss’s ego while still demanding recognition and respect.