Awards have an odd place in our culture. We dismiss their importance with rants about clueless Emmy or Oscar voters, but still revel in their cachet when our favourites earn the right to call themselves nominees or, better yet, winners. Awards shows themselves are bloated, self-congratulatory tripe. But I will be eagerly watching the Emmys on Sunday with popcorn and wine on hand, ready to cheer and jeer.
I feel as though I should sneer at the Emmys and other award shows, just as I sneer at IQ tests. They’re both overrated assessments that measure something, but not necessarily what they pretend to measure. The Emmys are not really about the best television has to offer – even assuming it’s possible to measure such a subjective thing.
Awards are always about more than just who is most deserving, and “most deserving” is too subjective to inspire much indignation in me when I look at this year’s Emmy nominations. (But really, The West Wing and Six Feet Under were among the top five best dramas on the air? I used to love them, but objectively speaking – no.) The Emmys are part popularity contest, part political process, part nostalgia, part truly acknowledging quality. That doesn’t change from year to year, and raging against the injustice is as futile as hoping reality television will disappear.
The host is irrelevant, the presenters’ scripted remarks are cheesy, the speeches are boring, I haven’t seen the vast majority of nominees, but … umm, wait, I know there’s a but.
Oh, yes … but even though I feel I ought to sneer at the Emmys – I even want to sneer – I can’t, because I’m too enrapture by the spectacle of it all to remember to sneer. There’s breathtakingly pretty dresses and ludicrously awful dresses and attractive actors stepping out of character. There’s the rare glimpse of behind-the-scenes people when the camera accidentally lingers on them for more than a nanosecond (“oh, so that’s what J.J. Abrams looks like!”). There’s the illusion that I’m seeing Hollywood behind the scenes, a peek at their unimaginably glamourous lives where they waltz to the corner store in Armani and Vera Wang.
And as it turns out, whatever the Emmys measure, I desperately want my favourite showmakers and performers to come out on top. So I’ll be glued to my set Sunday evening, waiting to cheer them on, and indulge in some cathartic remote control throwing if they don’t win.