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The Emmys Sent a Big, Queer, Feminist Message to Trump


While the Trump administration attacks marginalized communities, the Television Academy is uplifting their stories.


The Emmys has joined The Resistance.

The list of this year's nominations, published Thursday, shows that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has overwhelmingly endorsed content showcasing the lives of queer people, people of color, and women. It's no coincidence that this list comes in the midst of the Trump administration's attacks on these communities.

In fact, 2018 may be the gayest year yet. Before the 2016 presidential election, for example, an Emmy win for RuPaul's Drag Race seemed far-fetched. This year, the VH1 reality drag competition made history with 12 nominations. Its gay host of color, RuPaul, has won in his category for the past two years.

Other nominated productions that centered LGBT lives include Queer Eye, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime, and The Handmaid's Tale. Nominated LGBT people included Ellen DeGeneres (her eponymous talk show), Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live), Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld), Tim Gunn (Project Runway), Lily Tomlin (Grace & Frankie), Jane Lynch (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Hollywood Game Night), Samira Wiley (Orange Is the New Black), Carrie Brownstein (Portlandia), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story: Cult), Ryan Murphy (The Assassination of Gianni Versace), and Cherry Jones (The Handmaid's Tale).

That is a lot of queerness. And it is a clear rebuke to an administration that erased LGBT people from the U.S. census or a Supreme Court that sides with an antigay baker over the same-sex couple who asked him to make a wedding cake.

This "milestone moment for LGBTQ inclusion on television" was not lost on GLAAD, an LGBT media organization, which released a statement praising how Hollywood is sending "a clear message of inclusion and acceptance" to the world.

"With a surge of out actors and creators nominated alongside LGBTQ-inclusive scripted programming and LGBTQ-focused shows like Queer Eye and RuPaul's Drag Race, the Television Academy is finally reflecting how audiences and critics embrace diverse LGBTQ images on television," said CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement. "Emmy voters today sent a clear message of inclusion and acceptance which should be a signal for Hollywood to continue to tell powerful and impactful LGBTQ stories."

Many of the nominated productions and performances are intersectional, showing queer lives layered with the experiences of other marginalized communities. Sandra Oh, who plays an MI5 officer obsessed with a female assassin on Killing Eve, is the first woman of Asian descent to receive a nomination in Lead Actress in a Drama. Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, about a now not-so-unrealistic future where women are oppressed and homosexuality is illegal, received 20 nominations. NBC's Saturday Night Live, which skewered the Trump administration in its weekly comedic sketch show, received 21 nominations, including its star women: the out McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, and Leslie Jones.

There's also love for Netflix's Godless, a drama about a Western mining town run by women, including Merritt Weaver, who plays a queer cowgirl; Atlanta, Donald Glover's FX acclaimed drama about race in the music industry; ABC's Black-ish, about an upper-middle-class, African-American family, in which Sykes received a nomination; and NBC's Jesus Christ Superstar, where John Legend could get an EGOT for playing a black Jesus.

As the nation's highest court threatens to tip even more to the right with the president's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh -- putting the future of abortion rights and marriage equality in jeopardy -- Hollywood has swung further to the left. Liberals, deprived of power in politics, are using their cultural power to send a message that these attacks are unacceptable. These nominations will encourage more diversity on television. And they could also sway some hearts and minds at the ballot box this November.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.