Arts·Queeries

The Emmy nominations are here, and they are unbelievably queer

13 LGBTQ actors received nominations this year (though sadly none of them were the women of Pose).

13 LGBTQ actors received nominations this year (though sadly none of them were the women of Pose)

Left: Dan Levy as David Rose in Schitt's Creek. Right: Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset in Orange Is The New Black. (CBC/Netflix)

Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens. 

The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards are still happening this September despite...everything, and this morning we learned what television they might celebrate. The nominations were truly among the most diverse batches of contenders I've ever seen at any major award show, including a record-breaking showing from LGBTQ performers and storytellers. 

Queer-centric series like Hollywood (12 nominations), RuPaul's Drag Race (10 nominations, plus another 2 for Untucked), Killing Eve (8 nominations), Queer Eye (6 nominations), Cheer (6 nominations), Euphoria (6 nominations), Pose (5 nominations), Will & Grace (5 nominations), The Politician (5 nominations) and CBC's very own Schitt's Creek (15 nominations!) dominated the proceedings, as did many a queer performer. All in all, the amount of LGBTQ representation across the nominations is pretty much unprecedented.

Take this not-so-fun fact: only five actors who openly identify as LGBTQ have ever been nominated for Oscars — and only one of them for a queer role. By contrast, today the Emmys nominated 13 LGBTQ folks across their acting categories: Dan Levy (who was also nominated for writing and directing Schitt's Creek), Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live), Wanda Sykes (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Billy Porter (Pose), Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve), Samira Wiley (The Handmaid's Tale), Andrew Scott (Black Mirror), Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black), Cherry Jones (Succession) Jeremy Pope (Hollywood), Jim Parsons (Hollywood), Holland Taylor (Hollywood) and Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend). The majority of those nominations were for playing LGBTQ roles, and nearly half were for queer people of colour. That's a really big deal.

The women of Pose were snubbed by the Emmys for the second year in a row. (F/X)

Awards show seem to take the tiniest baby steps toward diversity each year in their nominations, but this year the Emmys took a bit of a leap. It doesn't even seem problematic that seven straight actors — Andre Braugher, Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, Linda Cardellini, Hugh Jackman, Alexis Bledel and Zendaya (whose nomination for Euphoria was such a wonderfully deserved surprise) — are up for portraying LGBTQ characters.

Of course, while obviously there was a whole lot to celebrate with these nominations, there were also a few very glaring omissions. The second season of Steven Canals, Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy's F/X series Pose was the true crowning achievement in LGBTQ representation this past season, and while it received 5 very deserved nominations for Porter and its hair, makeup and costume teams, it should have easily tripled that count. I mean, how is it fair that Brad Pitt received a nomination for essentially spending 60 seconds on a Zoom call while the staggering hours of performance offered by the rest of Pose's cast — mostly made up of trans women of colour — were ignored? Mj Rodriguez, Indya Moore and Angelica Ross in particular were more than worthy of nominations in their respective categories.

Hopefully come next year, the third season of Pose (currently postponed due to COVID-19) will have found its way to our screens and its leading ladies to an Emmys ceremony that's actually allowed to take place conventionally. But right now, as we all stay home and lean even more heavily on our favourite TV shows to keep us entertained and connected, it's cause for celebration that so many LGBTQ creators are being recognized for their contributions. It wasn't too long ago when a single nomination for an out queer person at a major awards show would be notable by itself. These Emmy nominations prove that should never be the norm again, and hopefully other awards shows (I'm looking at you, Oscars — if you ever happen again, at least) follow suit.

The 72nd Primetime Emmy Award winners will be announced on September 20, 2020 in a ceremony hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. 

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.

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