WiC Club: Game of Thrones and the fickleness of awards shows


Game of Thrones took its final bow at the Emmys, and it was…fine. Actually, it was better than fine. The show took home 10 Creative Arts Emmys, which honor professionals on the more technical side of things, plus two Primetime Emmys: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama for Peter Dinklage (his fourth win) and Outstanding Drama Series, the top award of the night.

But give all that the show was nominated for, fans were hoping for more of a victory lap. We were hoping for one of the show’s many talented actresses to finally be rewarded, either Emilia Clarke in the Outstanding Lead Actress category or Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Lena Headey or Gwendoline Christie in the Supporting Actress category. (That one still galls a bit; I mean, Game of Thrones actresses made up over half the category; how did none of them take it?) We were hoping for Nikolaj Coster-Waldau or Alfie Allen to win in the Outstanding Supporting Actor category, not because Dinklage didn’t earn his trophy but because those two were more unsung. We were hoping for a talent like Miguel Sapochnik to be recognized in the Outstanding Director category. But our hopes were dashed.

That’s a bit dramatic, but it was disappointing. But really, if I’m mad, the most proper target for my ire should be myself, for investing emotionally in the results of awards shows. Because awards shows are not, nor have they ever been, a reflection of objective quality.

Awards shows have their favorites, and they have their patterns. Figuring out who wins often comes down to voting procedures. For the Emmys, like the Oscars, the votes come in from a body of Hollywood professionals thousands of people strong. Under that system, there is NO WAY every voter has seen every TV show. That’s especially true today, when we have more things to watch than ever before.

And that’s okay. It just means that when looking at the results of the Emmys, we have to take a different tack than we would with, say, the Golden Globes, which are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a body of fewer than 100 members. With their huge numbers, the Emmy voters are more vulnerable to swaying opinion, or to a narrative that could catch on in Hollywood circles even if it’s not widely known. The Golden Globes voters, on the other hand, can talk amongst themselves and purposefully reward shows they think have been overlooked, as they did when they handed the Best Television Series award to comparatively under-seen shows like Nip/TuckThe Affair and Mozart in the Jungle.

So we’ve established that there’s more that goes into an awards vote than the quality of the actual thing. By the way, If anyone’s interested in learning more about the ever-malleable criteria for awards shows, I highly recommend the YouTube channel Be Kind Rewind, which takes a close look at how various actresses have fared at the Oscars over the years.

But knowing that the results of any given award show are influenced by many factors doesn’t explain the results of this specific Emmy ceremony. It doesn’t explain why, say, Julia Garner of Netflix’s Ozark beat out all four of those Game of Thrones actress for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama, or why Jason Bateman of Ozark beat out the four guys nominated for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series. I can’t help but wonder if there was a behind-the-scenes narrative happening around Ozark, a good but not fantastic Netflix drama. Was conversation starting to bubble up at chic LA coffee shops and restaurants? Do people just like Hollywood mainstay Jason Bateman and wanted to reward him? Or is this just an example of too many Game of Thrones nominees splitting the vote?

I know we’ll never fully know the answers to these questions, and I know they don’t really matter in the first place. But it’s also fun to get caught up in the pomp and drama of an award show, to stump and fight for the actor or director or series that you know deserves to be showered with accolades and celebrated into the wee hours. It’s not rational, but what’s a life lived always boxed in by something as boring as rationality, anyway?

So Game of Thrones didn’t sweep the 2019 Emmys. The 2020 Golden Globes aren’t far away…