Golden statues, tarnished standards

By Melanie Bethune

Awards show season is upon us, with its barrage of Jennifer Lawrence interviews and predictions by your co-worker at the water cooler as to whom will take home Globes, Grammies, Oscars or some other gilded statues.

These organizations claim to award talent in their respective industries, but an unfortunate reality of a biased industry can be found by paying attention to the losers, not just the winners.

More and more, entertainment awards are given out based upon what awards committees are comfortable with. Independent, non-American and science fiction productions miss recognition, particularly in television. Awards committees don’t take the time to watch them because a big name or studio isn’t attached or because the show explores ideas and themes beyond the Hollywood mainstream.

Internet blogs and e-talk websites lit up last summer when Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany was snubbed at the Emmys for her work in the freshman television series Orphan Black. Portraying upwards of seven uniquely distinct characters — from a suburban soccer mom to a dreadlocked Ph.D student to a British punk and even a psychopathic Ukranian assasain — often in a scene with up to three other versions of herself, Maslany single-handedly elevated a small Canadian clone show and became the dark horse and critical darling of this year’s awards season. She had already racked up a Critic’s Choice Award and a Television Critics Association award before being snubbed at the Emmys.

After Maslany received a nomination for the Golden Globes this December, critics and fans figured that she’d finally win — many websites or blogs for Golden Globes predictions listed her as either highly likely to win or at least a frontrunner — however Robin Wright of House of Cards surprisingly took home the Globe.

The Internet reacted strongly. tweeted “A moment of silence for Tatiana Maslany’s missing #goldenglobe” while Michael Ausiello of the entertainment juggernaut claimed he was “genuinely shocked Tatiana didn’t win. But Robin is terrific in House of Cards.”

Maybe Wright’s win was a step towards recognizing more independent media, as House of Cards was the first Netflix original series produced. However, Wright had the benefit of starring alongside superstar Kevin Spacey and House of Cards received a lot of exposure due to its association with Netflix.

I’m not saying that awards shows should be dominated by shows like Orphan Black or French language films about zombies or vampires filmed in a backyard. However, award committees need to expose themselves to a wider range of media, even if there are no Oscar-winning actors or producers attached.

The most recent Golden Globe win for a lead actress in a genre or sci-fi show was Anna Paquin’s 2008 win for her role in True Blood, which was a shock. Before that was Gillian Anderson’s 1996 win for The X-Files. As for lead actor, the most recent is David Duchovney’s win for The X-Files in 1996 which has been followed by a nearly 20-year drought.

Why do we tune in every year to see rehashed shows about governments, police or hospitals win every award? I use Maslany and Orphan Black here as an example, but there are deserving actors, actresses, directors and crew from a wide spectrum of shows and films that miss out simply because their show doesn’t fit traditional moulds.

For Maslany and a small Canadian genre show like Orphan Black to even be nominated is a victory. But I hope that the backlash over her snubs awakens award show voters to the consequences of remaining in their comfort zones. Every few years an incredibly deserving actor or show loses out on one of these awards because award committees refuse to expand their horizons.

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