I cried thrice during the 69th Emmy awards. First, at Lena Waithe’s speech; second, when Sterling K. Brown was rudely cut off from his speech (he was right, no one else got that loud music!); and lastly, when Margaret Atwood graced the stage for The Handmaid’s Tale’s win for Outstanding Drama Series. While the first two are self-explanatory, the third just got me because it was wonderful to see that a book written by a female author had so many people spellbound and off their seats for a standing ovation (and I cry easily).
Before I tell you more about my weepy shenanigans, here are some interesting numbers: At the 67th Emmys in 2015, the top two TV shows to rake in the most awards were Game of Thrones (6) and Olive Kitteridge (4). At the 68th Emmys, 2016, the top two spots were taken by The People vs OJ Simpson (5) and Game of Thrones (3). This year, The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies have tied with 5 awards each.
All five of these shows are book adaptations.
Some people will have us believe that The Handmaid’s Tale only won because it fit the current political climate (extreme side-eye), but let’s be clear: these shows won because the audiences loved and needed the stories Atwood and Moriarty wrote, and I think they helped in their own small ways. I’m not saying that 45 watched TV and had an epiphany about himself and his administration, thereby fixing everything that is wrong with the world, but The Handmaid’s Tale did create conversation about women’s rights over their bodies and how fascist regimes work. To say the very least, it sparked a discussion at my own home between me and my parents, who were very perturbed to find me weeping (yes, again, I know) over an episode, asked about the premise, and listened.
Similarly, Big Little Lies was important and refreshing because it was centered around the conflicted, secret lives of women, for a change. Nicole Kidman’s speech after her win was also quite heartening to hear: it was good to know that for her and the other creators involved, the issue of domestic abuse against women was an important component of the show.
The bottomline is that I’m glad that books are making for some excellent, smart TV and that the big winners are moving from a show which thrives on the display of gratuitous sexual violence against women, to shows that actively resist the same. But then again, Game of Thrones was simply not eligible this year. It’s frustrating to think that if it were in the running, it might have deprived several women creators, writers and actors from getting their due.
For more from Book Riot about the two winning shows, read: