Arts·Queeries

Holy Schitt: The Emmy nominations are really good — and really queer

From Pose to Special to Nanette, LGBTQ folks are heavily represented this year.

From Pose to Special to Nanette, LGBTQ folks are heavily represented this year

Clockwise from top left: Killing Eve, A Very English Scandal, Special, Pose, RuPaul's Drag Race and Schitt's Creek were part of a surge of LGBTQ-related Emmy nominations today. (Courtesy)

Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens. It won the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada.

The 71st Primetime Emmy Award nominations were announced this morning, and they honestly exceeded even my wildest expectations.

This year's nominations (for the most part) actually honour the most deserving series of what has probably one of the best seasons ever when it comes to episodic storytelling — and one of the queerest. Somehow Emmy voters came through, giving multiple and intensely well-earned nominations to the likes of Fleabag, Russian Doll, Pose and our very own Schitt's Creek. And while Fleabag and Russian Doll aren't quite "queer TV" (though for some reason their worlds feel very queer to me), Pose and Schitt's Creek sure are, and they're joined by Killing Eve, Special, RuPaul's Drag Race, Nanette, Wanda Sykes: Not NormalA Very English Scandal, Billy on the Street, Gay of Thrones, The Randy Rainbow how and Queer Eye as the many series with lead LGBTQ characters or personalities to receive major Emmy love (though I would be remiss not to note how much The Other Two and Vida deserved to join them).

Whatever happens on Emmy night, though,  what this surge in LGBTQ nominations already says is how very here the queers have become on TV these past few years. ​​​​​​- Peter Knegt

What's most significant about these series is just how diverse their collective representation is. Really, up until a few years ago, a complete history of LGBTQ-related Emmy nominations was pretty much exclusively of the Ellen/Will & Grace/Modern Family variety: very cis, very white and with many of the queer roles being played by straight actors. Transparent and Orange is the New Black were what really started to change that in the mid-2010s (though in the former's case the lead trans role was played by a straight cis actor). How glorious is it now that Pose — a series that has five transgender actresses in series regular roles — got six Emmy nominations today, including best drama series and best drama actor for Billy Porter?

Porter is one so many openly LGBTQ actors that were nominated, notably for playing an LGBTQ character. Consider that only three openly LGBTQ actors have ever been nominated for Oscars — and only one of them for a queer role. The Emmys more than tripled that number today alone with Porter, Ben Whishaw, Abbi Jacobson, Kate McKinnon, Jane Lynch, Fiona Shaw, Hannah Gadsby, Wanda Sykes, Cherry Jones and Laverne Cox. That's ten, up from seven last year. Now, would it have been extra lovely if Mj Rodriguez and Indya Moore joined them for their revelatory performances in Pose? Of course, but there's a lot for Pose to celebrate today, and ideally that happens next year for its even better second season (and when Game of Thrones is ineligible to get, like, half of the acting nominations).

Did four actresses from Game of Thrones really deserve a nomination over Indya Moore? (F/X)

Pose did make additional his/herstory with Janet Mock, Our Lady J and Steven Canals becoming the first trans or Latinx folks to ever be nominated as producers of a drama series. This kind of mainstream recognition of a show like Pose — or Special or Nanette or Killing Eve, for that matter — is incredibly important, in part just because of how much it will encourage more and more diverse storytelling. It's extremely unlikely, but imagine the significance of the moment if it ends up beating Games of Thrones. (Pretty please, Emmy voters?)

Whatever happens on Emmy night, though, what this surge in LGBTQ nominations already says is how very here the queers have become on TV these past few years. If you really think about where we were in terms of representation even five or six years go, it's pretty remarkable. And it certainly doesn't show any sign of slowing down anytime soon.

About the Author

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag and interactive project Superqueeroes, both of which won him 2020 Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

now