Friday, September 25, 2015

Two Steps Forward...One Step Back

Everyone agrees that this year's Emmy awards show was a great step forward for women, especially black women.  Women were being awarded left and right, winning more of the gender-neutral awards  presented on television (Jill Solloway for Transparent, Lisa Cholodenko for Olive Kitteridge, Amy Schumer for Inside Amy Schumer, and a writing staff of almost 50% women for The Daily Show).  In fact, in the Lead Actor in a Comedy Series award went to Jeffrey Tambor for his role playing a transgendered woman on Transparent, so I'm chocking that win up to the ladies, as well.  And in the women's acting categories, there were nine African American women nominated and three of these amazing actresses won - Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder), Regina King (American Crime) and Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black).  I have no idea if these numbers set a new record, but it wouldn't surprise me. I do know that Davis is the first black woman to win for lead actress in a drama and gave a speech about the need for more opportunities for women of color that will go down in history:

 It was truly a monumental night.

However, there was one slew of awards given to a program that has been criticized for it's treatment of women all year - Game of Thrones.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I absolutely love the books and have been a big fan of the series so far.  But I, along with many other women, watched this season with a lot of discomfort and feminist blogs lit up with outrage.  The mainstream press was highly critical of the issue, as well.

While the response to this issue has always been about how there are rapes all over the books, too, the problem most women have with the rapes in the show is that they are done to major characters who were not raped in the book and they are often used as a way to make the women more interesting.

Only one major character, so far, in the books was raped - Daenerys (Khaleesi).  In the show, the first out-of-character rape that really upset most of the A Song of Ice and Fire series' fans was the rape of Cersei by her brother Jaime.  This was a particularly poor choice since it actually undoes all of the work George R. R. Martin did in the book of making Jaime likable.  But this last season saw the rapes and/or attempted rapes of Sansa, Gilly, and Arya - all crucial characters who were perfectly compelling without such rape and darkness in the novels.  Sarah Ditum in The New Statesmen argues that the rape of Sansa was just par for the course, but the way that they showed the rape was clearly meant to be gratuitous, particularly as they show the reaction of her step brother as she is raped.  She wrote "Apparently violence against a woman counts for more if it distresses a man."

One blog I read at the time (that I cannot find again to link to) pointed out that we shouldn't be so surprised because Game of Thrones is one of the few major series on television these days that has an entirely male writer's room, a problem they don't appear to be fixing.

Yet the Television Academy decided to award them 12 Emmys this season, including Best Drama Series and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for the most controversial and anti-women season yet, essentially rewarding their sexism.

Again, I will say that the show has some really great aspects.  They offer some amazing roles for female actors, and the technical aspects of the show are superb.  I don't begrudge them winning some Emmys, particularly the one given to Peter Dinklage, but to reward their writers and the show for a season so full of gratuitous rape and violence towards women is to encourage the industry to do more of this, though they clearly need no such encouragement.  And it taints an otherwise amazing and woman-focused awards season.

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