These Emmys Speeches Will Blow Your Feminist Socks Off
Despite women still being underrepresented in Hollywood, last night featured significant wins for women's stories on and offstage.
If it feels at times that the progress of women’s representation both on and behind the camera is painfully slow, that’s because it is. But for all the work that remains, last night’s 69th Emmy Awards held more than a handful of glittering moments in which the remarkable women creating and portraying stories were given their due.
And not only that, many of the winning actresses addressed important social issues while cleaning up, trophy-wise.
As expected, Elizabeth Moss won for her role in The Handmaid’s Tale and Julia Louis Dreyfus won for Best Actress in a Comedy for her portrayal of Selena Meyer in Veep, making her the winning-est actor in a single role of all time. Meanwhile, Lena Waithe won her first Emmy and in the process, made history.
Below, check out some of the more uplifting moments from the women who won big last night.
Lena Waithe and Aziz Ansari won for Outstanding Writing For a Comedy Series for the “Thanksgiving” episode on the second season of Master of None, making her first the first black woman to win in that category. Waithe also stars in the show as Denise, the childhood best friend of Ansari's character Dev.
The episode largely centered around Denise's struggles with getting her family to accept her identity, and she gave a shout out to the "L-G-B-T-Q-I-A community" at the end of her speech:
“I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different—those are our super powers. Every day, when you walk out the door, put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world. Because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.”
Beyond taking home a big prize for Best Limited Series, it was a huge night for the cast of Big Little Lies, the HBO drama based on the novel by Liane Moriarty. The show was largely brought to fruition by the efforts of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, who cited their motivations for getting the show made as a means to deliver better roles for women.
Both women starred in and served as executive producers on the show, which placed an intense emphasis on domestic violence and the complex relationships between women.
Kidman won her first Emmy for her portrayal of Celeste Wright, an attorney whose seemingly perfect marriage is laid over a deeply abusive relationship. Kidman was vocal about how difficult the role was for her, and she touched again on the dire importance of continuing to discuss domestic abuse:
“We shined a light on domestic abuse. It is a complicated, insidious disease. It exists far more than we allow ourselves to know. It is filled with shame and secrecy, and by you acknowledging me with this award, it shines a light on it even more.”
In another big win for Big Little Lies, Laura Dern came home with her first Emmy after being nominated six times, and despite the celebrated actress’ illustrious career, she was quick to call out why working on a show that placed such an immense focus on the lives of women was so important to her: “I’ve been acting since I was 11 years old, and I think I’ve worked with maybe 12 women."
“Thank you to Nicole and Reese’s moms for not only giving us extraordinary women, but really well-read women, because that’s how I’m getting parts. …I feel very proud to be reflecting fierce women and mothers finding their voice.”
As with Dern, actress Ann Dowd has been a mainstay of incredible performance after incredible performance, and yet this was likewise her first win.
Dowd, who portrays the terrifying Aunt Lydia on The Handmaid’s Tale, was endearingly stunned and emotional—a state that’s in stark contrast to the often ominous roles in which she is so brilliant.
And lastly, honorary shoutout to Sterling K. Brown, who won Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role in The Is Us. He’s the first black actor to win in that category in nearly two decades, and bizarrely, he was cut off mid-speech by the play-off music. As Brown continued to issue his thank-yous over the music that, which as he noted, was louder for him than others, the broadcast promptly cut to commercial.
Sterling later finished his speech backstage, thanking the writers and producers of the show, and most moving of all, his wife and sons.
There's much work to be done in terms of putting more women and people of color in front of, and behind, the camera. But last night's ceremony was an indicator of the steps being taken in the right direction, highlighting the individuals not only delivering remarkable art, but fighting hard for it.
Words: Deena Drewis