Did you see Tatiana Maslany’s win the Emmy for Best Actress in a TV Drama last night? I mean, could you believe that?
No, I don’t mean that her win was undeserved. Far from it. I mean the reaction from Maslany’s ostensible peers. Take another look. No, there’s nothing wrong with the sound on your playback device.
I’m going to give you some words for that kind of applause. Tepid. Perfunctory. Halfhearted. Languid. Uninspired.
It’s what David Letterman and Paul Schaffer used to jokingly refer to as “a smattering of applause.”
It’s what South Park jumped on Brett Favre for using during last year’s ESPYs when he didn’t seem to care about Caitlyn Jenner’s bravery.
Yeah, this is an entire post about the tepid applause for one Emmy winner. Deal with it.
You’ve got plenty of Emmy recaps today. You want a rundown? Go elsewhere. You want to hear about diversity? Me too; lots of places have you covered. But they’re not talking about this. So that’s down to me.
Listen very carefully to the video. First, presenter Kiefer Sutherland doesn’t bother to learn how to pronounce her name. Second, yes, there’s an initial burst of enthusiasm. But that dies in the few seconds it takes Maslany to ascend the stage. It’s not on this version, but Mislay senses the room deflate, and at the end of her speech Maslany throws in a feminist appeal. Too little, too late.
I’ve never seen this level of ho-hum applause this late in an awards-show broadcast. More often, when you’re two awards away from the night’s final award (as the Emmys were), standing ovations become almost automatic. Yeah, maybe too automatic. But you don’t over-compensate by sleepwalking through Maslany’s big moment.
Tatiana Maslany’s work on Orphan Black is nothing short of beyond-brilliant. She’s Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets times 15 (hours logged), in a sci-fi thriller. Like Nicolas Cage in Adaptation (his last real effort), you never for one second doubt which person she plays in each scene, you never think “oh, they all sound the same.” Performance doesn’t get any more virtuosic.
In honor of the nine characters Maslany regular plays, here are nine possible explanations for the stunned, warm-milk applause Maslany’s win received last night.
The first three: other nominees were better, or they didn’t want to hurt their working relationships with the other nominees, or the crowd was hoping for more diversity, e.g. an African-American nominee.
The other nominees were last year’s winner, Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder; Claire Danes, Homeland; Taraji P. Henson, Empire; Keri Russell, The Americans; Robin Wright, House of Cards.
All terrific, all deserving, except maybe Danes, who has won this award enough already. But I don’t see a Streep-in-Sophie’s Choice here. I don’t see a Hilary Swank-in-Boys Don’t Cry this year. I don’t see a Anyone Else Would Be Blasphemy kind of race. And if you do, I question if you’ve seen Orphan Black.
That’s a fourth possible explanation: the Emmy audience hasn’t seen the show. All right, fine. But how many Oscar voters actually watched Room, starring Brie Larson, eight months ago? Of course, some. But a majority? I doubt it. And prior to 2016, they didn’t know Brie Larson from Brie cheese. Her Oscar win still got vociferous applause. And this audience gave its first standing O of the night to the heretofore unknown Sterling K. Brown for his exquisite turn as Christopher Darden, so no.
Here’s a fifth possible explanation: minutes after Rami Malek’s oh-so-well-deserved surprise win for Mr. Robot, his industry peers were a little concerned to be losing to two networks that none of them have ever watched or worked for: USA and BBC America.
Sure. But how ungracious! These voters were happy to let Netflix and Amazon and even Beyonce’s music video and Jerry Seinfeld’s web series into their lives. So now they’re drawing the line at USA and BBC America?
A sixth possible explanation is bias against science-fiction. So Game of Thrones has now won the most Emmys of any scripted show ever, but we’re drawing a line between fantasy and sci-fi? Probably not, but maybe.
A seventh possible explanation is that during the commercials, Maslany stood up and yelled at the crowd that they were all a bunch of baby rapists. I’m guessing that in the era of social media, we would have heard about that by now. Doesn’t seem likely.
An eighth possible explanation is that the fourth season of Orphan Black was subpar. As though the crowd would have gone wild if she’d won in her first two seasons (when she wasn’t even nominated), but now…meh. As a fan of the show, I can actually relate to this. But as explanations go, I think that’s a little too nuanced.
#9: full from too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Nahhh.
So, maybe it’s some combination of all nine of these. Maybe it’s a tenth thing I haven’t thought of.
Maybe I should stop with these sour grapes over something as inconsequential as tepid applause.
Yes, nothing can take away Maslany’s beautiful Emmy. Nothing can prevent her ascension into the top ranks of today’s actresses, including the movie stars. So she can go ahead and have that and do that and be that.
And while she does, cranky internet people like me will have her back.