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Emmys 2024: Consideration of speculative fiction genres will maintain magic of award shows

(Emily Hu/Daily Bruin)

By Sanjana Chadive

Jan. 13, 2024 7:50 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 15 at 7:56 p.m.

The Television Academy’s limited recognition of speculative fiction is far from magical.

With the 75th Primetime Emmy Awards airing Monday, fans of the genre may be watching the ceremony in bittersweet spirits. HBO’s post-apocalyptic drama “The Last of Us” garnered a whopping 24 nominations, including ones in major categories such as Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series and Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series. Despite also receiving acclaim, similar shows such as Amazon Prime Video’s “The Boys” and HBO’s “House of the Dragon” were overlooked, earning nominations primarily for technical accomplishments rather than storytelling and acting prowess. Needless to say, the Television Academy’s failure to fully acknowledge these two series highlights how award shows continue to dismiss speculative fiction.

Many opponents of the genre often argue that these stories tend to focus on elements such as visual effects and production design over quality writing and acting, thus prioritizing style over substance. However, this argument is anything but true. For example, “House of the Dragon” effectively explores the subjects of misogyny, hierarchical structures and war. In addition, “The Boys” constantly implores viewers to examine the blurred line between heroism and villainy. Perhaps these shows should receive more nominations for their ability to aptly balance strong storytelling with stunning technical marvel.

[Related: Second Take: Audiences deserve an intermission from formulaic and overdone biopics]

One may also contend that the most recent seasons of “The Boys” and “House of the Dragon” aired far too long ago to gain more recognition this year, as they came out in 2022. Nevertheless, this claim is false. “The White Lotus,” which aired the same year as the two aforementioned series, scored 23 Emmy nominations – making it the third-most nominated show of the ceremony. If Television Academy members were deliberating whether or not to nominate “The Boys” or “House of the Dragon” in certain categories, a simple rewatch would have been the solution.

Moreover, some of the acting nominations granted to “The White Lotus” and even “Succession,” the most nominated show of the night, feel undeserved. Regarding “The White Lotus,” four of its cast members make up the nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Although season two of “The White Lotus” surpassed the quality of its already strong first season, many of these actors did not play very challenging and memorable roles.

That being said, Paddy Considine, who starred as King Viserys I Targaryen in “House of the Dragon,” should have received a nomination over one of them. His performance as the dying ruler who sits on the imposing Iron Throne to defend his daughter’s honor may resonate with viewers well after the end of the first season. Additionally, the Television Academy could have given a nod towards Matt Smith’s nuanced portrayal of the ruthless and charismatic Prince Daemon Targaryen.

Nevertheless, the worst snub for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series is undoubtedly Antony Starr for his role as Homelander in “The Boys.” In the most recent season of the show, Starr delivers a career-defining performance as the so-called “greatest superhero” who completely embraces his villainous side. Homelander is arguably one of the most terrifying antagonists to grace the small screen – and it’s a shame that Starr’s portrayal was ignored by the Television Academy.

“The White Lotus” dominated the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category as well, as five cast members were nominated. However, Jennifer Coolidge and Meghann Fahy’s performances remain the most memorable. If anything, Emma D’Arcy, who stars as Rhaenyra Targaryen in “House of the Dragon,” should have been selected instead of one of the other three actresses in “The White Lotus.” D’Arcy commanded the screen whenever they were present, but their performance in the season one finale should have guaranteed a nod from the Television Academy. Rhaenyra loses her father and two children within the span of a few days, and D’Arcy does an exceptional job capturing her devastation.

Although “Succession” was the best drama series of the year and well-deserving of almost all of its 27 nominations, there was one selection that confused even the most ardent fans. Despite only appearing in three episodes of the final season, Brian Cox still received a nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series. A much better choice would have been Karl Urban, who plays the anti-hero Billy Butcher in “The Boys.” Viewers witness Butcher consume the chemical that gives superhumans their powers and watch him grapple with the side effects of becoming what he hates most. Like Starr, Urban’s performance was nothing short of gripping.

[Related: ‘Succession’ season 4 recap – episode 10: ‘With Open Eyes’]

The Television Academy is not the only organization that casts a blind eye toward speculative fiction. In 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences increased the number of Best Picture nominations from five to 10 – most likely in response to the backlash it received for not recognizing acclaimed superhero film “The Dark Knight” in this category.

Since then, the AMPAS still fails to recognize the full prowess of stories featuring otherworldly elements. For instance, Jordan Peele’s “Nope,” which was hailed by many critics as one of the best films of 2022, did not receive a single Oscars nomination last year. If these groups continue to fail in appreciating speculative fiction, viewership ratings will inevitably dwindle.

Undoubtedly, the seriousness of award shows will only remain a fantasy.

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Sanjana Chadive | Lifestyle editor
Chadive is the 2023-2024 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2022-2023. She is a third-year comparative literature student from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
Chadive is the 2023-2024 lifestyle editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2022-2023. She is a third-year comparative literature student from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
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