To be a “Homicide: Life On The Street” fan was to be super comfortable with disappointment. Not only did NBC’s Baltimore-bred series seem to dance on the edge of cancellation for the entirety of its seven-season run, but its critical acclaim was never reflected in its Emmy Award haul.
Between 1993 and 1999, the show won just four of its 17 nominations, most notably Andre Braugher’s long-deserved trophy for Best Actor in a Drama Series for his brilliant, tortured Detective Frank Pembleton. By comparison, “Succession” got 75 Emmy nods and 19 awards in just four seasons.
Yet 25 years after it went off the air, “Homicide” remains beloved and culturally relevant for portraying the intersection of crime, policing, race, gender, sex and whether naming intersecting Fells Point streets Ann and Aliceanna is redundant. It asked questions and set standards for entertainment that remain, and its lack of Emmy love hasn’t dimmed that importance or impact, or the cry from diehard fans like me for somebody to figure out how to stream it. Somebody. Anybody.
So I have a message for disgruntled “Barbie” fans this awards season mad about what seem to be two conspicuous Oscar nomination snubs last week for the brightly colored feminist-flavored blockbuster. It absolutely, positively sucks to watch your favorites get ignored, and to be led to concoct disappointed conspiracy theories about why. But if Greta Gerwig’s film, the first billion-dollar earner to be directed by a solo woman, was important before awards season — and I believe it was — it’s going to continue to be.
Some have dismissed “Barbie” as Feminism 101, but there has to be an entry point, right? So many discussions have been inspired by a film about a doll erroneously accused of being a bad role model while simultaneously inspiring her young fans to be everything from astronaut to president. That’s huge.
Does it seem ironic that a movie in which a guy tries to recreate the patriarchy in a world of female empowerment received a performance nomination for Ryan Gosling, the guy who played that guy, but not for Margot Robbie, the titular doll, or Gerwig, the woman who directed it? Sure does, and even Gosling noted their omission in a statement, declaring that “there is no Ken without Barbie, and there is no Barbie movie without Greta Gerwig & Margot Robbie.”
The lack of nominations for those women in their expected categories seems more glaring because of the movie’s theme, but then again, these nominations and eventual winners are always subjective. The motion picture academy is famous for seemingly playing catch-up, like when they, say, gave Al Pacino a Best Actor trophy in 1993 for his cliched “HOO-ah” fest in “Scent of A Woman” after ignoring him for years despite fellow nominee Denzel Washington’s much better performance in “Malcolm X.”
And don’t get me started on Angela Bassett, who I still think deserved to win Best Supporting Actress over Jamie Lee Curtis last year but was given an honorary Oscar this month at an earlier (and non-televised) ceremony. Even the hosts get in on the snubs: Billy Crystal worked a dig at the lack of a Best Director nod for “The Prince of Tides” helmer Barbra Streisand into his opening musical monologue in 1992. Nobody’s guaranteed an award, and I would posit that these wealthy, gorgeous people are all gonna be fine. Really.
But let’s make sure we’re focusing on the notable recognitions that have been made, too. First of all, Gerwig and Robbie are both still up for Academy Award consideration for co-screenwriter and co-producer, respectively. And secondly, America Ferrera, who delivered “Barbie’s” most significant monologue about the impossibility of navigating modern femininity, got a nod for Best Supporting Actress. She’s one of two Latin American acting nominees this year, along with “Rustin’s” Colman Domingo.
There were many other strides for Black, Native American and LGBTQ actors as well, so I’m not going to declare the whole year a failure of representation because Gerwig and Robbie, conventionally attractive white women who have been previously nominated, were left out this time. It’s not a career-ending tragedy.
Heck, ask Taraji P. Henson, who turned her publicity tour for “The Color Purple,” another work about forgotten women, into a requiem on the disparity in pay and opportunities for women of color. Neither she nor her co-star Fantasia Barrino, whose performances I believe were as worthy of recognition as Robbie’s, if not more so, got nominations. And neither of them are guaranteed to be teed up for their next big roles, either.
You have to look no further than some other recent awards to see tales of resilience and triumph from artists who have long been overlooked. Niecy Nash-Betts won a supporting-actress Emmy recently for her work in a limited series in which she played a real-life woman whose warnings about a serial killer were literally ignored. Nash-Betts has been doing outstanding work for years, and her rousing, viral speech, in which she thanked herself for tirelessly toiling until she could say, “Go on, Girl, you did that,” was galvanizing. She wove in the giddiness of the victory, the other women whose legacies embolden hers and the message that sometimes, all that toiling pays off.
Listen, I loved “Barbie.” It’s not the most important film ever made, and there are some who don’t think it was Oscar-worthy in the first place. But I loved taking my son, who is 10, to a movie about what girls can achieve because he needs to know that as a boy. I loved the focus on how comedy rendered in shades of pink doesn’t obscure a serious message.
Awards are nice. I would like more of them. But long after the shine is off the trophy, the message remains.
This column has been updated to correct a quote from Ryan Gosling about the “Barbie” movie.