By Erin Moyer || Senior Editor
Did you watch the Emmys last Sunday? No? Well, you didn’t miss much. I mean, yes, perhaps Andy Samberg did a half-decent job as host, and sure, Viola Davis took home a well-deserved Best Actress Award— the first black woman to ever win in the Television Drama category, what’s up with that, Emmys?— but I could not properly enjoy either. No, reader, I was too busy fuming (and flipping over to Keeping Up with the Kardashians). And why might that be, you ask? (Besides that Kanye West was making an appearance on the reality show, that is.) Because Amy Poehler, your goddess and mine, did not take home an Emmy for her role as Leslie Knope in Parks and
I know what you’re thinking: “well, doesn’t that happen every year?” Yes, and that’s the problem. Amy Poehler has been nominated for an Emmy every year for the past six years, and she has never taken home the gold. And why is this all of sudden such a big deal to me? First of all, I have had it with your questions. Second of all, this was the last time Poehler could win an Emmy for playing Leslie Knope. And they didn’t let her do it, reader.
The Emmys didn’t choose to honor Parks and Recreation, or one of television’s best ensemble casts in a generation, or seven years of Poehler turning in absolutely incredible work. They apparently did not deem Poehler, or Parks and Recreation, worthy of such regard. And as you may have already gleaned, I am still upset about it.
Reader, I am sorry I got short with you earlier. With your indulgence, I would like to spend the next 900 words dissecting precisely why I think Amy Poehler did not win, and precisely how terrible this will be for Western democracy.
Plenty of people have already written about Poehler’s loss, and even more have passed around the immediately-GIFed moment when the cameras cut to our star as the Best Actress in a Television Comedy award is presented, only to reveal her cloaked in a hoodie and sunglasses, chomping on chewing gum. One article that went around quite a bit as well was a piece published by The Washington Post, in their “Style Blog,” for some reason. The article, aptly titled “Why Amy Poehler never really had a shot at winning an Emmy for Parks and Recreation, attributed Poehler’s loss to a general award show-eschewing of shows that are both network and low-rated.
The author, Emily Yahr, said the show reached too small of a “niche” to warrant serious attention. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style-blog/wp/2015/09/21/why-amy-poehler-never-really-had-a-shot-at-winning-an-emmy-for-parks-and-recreation/). It would get a nomination from the Emmys to prove that they are groovy and know that it exists, but that will usually be it. Yahr also quoted Michael Schur, the mind behind both The Office and Parks and Recreation, who likened Poehler’s loss to the equally-notorious-snubbing of Steve Carell in the days of The Office. As Schur told Entertainment Weekly, “it’s a very similar thing….I think the world just thinks they’ve won.” In other words, because Amy Poehler and Steve Carell have clearly had conventional acting success and become beloved stars, mainstream America sort of perceives them as winners already.
All of the above are very valid points. I do not question the author of that article, nor do I want to dismiss Mike Schur’s point. But both, in my mind, sort of dance around the real issue behind Poehler’s snub. Here’s some real talk for you: Amy Poehler missed out because the Emmy Awards hate women.
Oh my gosh, of course they don’t. I’m messing with you. But in all seriousness, I think that Poehler lost the award year after year, not because the Television Academy is literally a hateful organization, but because they never took Parks and Recreation seriously. I don’t think they ever really recognized what a special, once-in-a-lifetime show this was. I think this show was too much fun to ever really garner serious consideration for a serious award.
I think these people watched the first season of Parks, tops, and were too quick to cheer when the manic “crazy lady” tumbled into the pit. Aren’t you people supposed to watch these shows, season after season? Perhaps this, as with Steve Carell’s equally-snubbed turn as Michael Scott, was a show that always seemed too silly to have truly good actors, and truly good writing, behind every last one of those absurd talking-heads.
But here’s the crucial thing the Emmys missed: for me, this award, and who gets it, goes beyond the actual actress. Honestly, every single actress in this category more than earned the award in spades. They were all terrific, and besides, they all do very different things. This award deserved to go, not arbitrarily to the “best” actress in dissimilar roles, but to the actress who portrayed an unbelievably significant character for the last time. All of the actresses are great, but one character deserved this more than the rest. My big point here is that The Television Academy erroneously missed their very last chance to single out Leslie Knope.
Obviously, Amy Poehler’s phenomenal work in rendering Leslie deserved to be awarded, don’t get me wrong. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the actual winner of the award, is a national treasure as well. But listen, we have very many national treasures. The Emmys had a whole auditorium full of national treasures. What we do not have, what we will never have, is another Leslie Knope.
The Emmys missed how meaningful of a character Leslie truly was. This is the brilliant character-creation who gave us Galentine’s Day and Ann Perkins-style compliments, who proved that manic hard work and generosity pay off, who showed me how to speak my mind and value the living hell out of my friends. This is the endlessly-quotable character who brought new glory to small-town government and breakfast food.
If you aren’t going to honor Amy Poehler, I’ll get over it. (Someday.) But at least honor Leslie, for God’s sake. Choose to honor the character who stood for feminism and female friendship, for a productive government and the value of hard work, who injected so much good will and good, intentioned, political writing into an otherwise mindless, often unkind network TV line-up. Choose to honor the fact that an empowered woman like Leslie Knope could even exist, to tremendous success and warm reception, on network TV. Choose to honor all that Leslie and Parks and Recreation worked for for seven years.
It is truly this that hurts for me the most: Amy Poehler will work and move on with her life, and probably win very many more things. But Leslie Knope, a character who deserves all the praise in the world, just missed her last chance at this honor. I would never contend, if we’re playing this game of “whose character counts more?,” that a show about a lady Vice President does not deserve some love. But perhaps Parks and Recreation, and a woman who spent seven years turning in amazing work on one singularly amazing character, deserved it a bit more.
And as far the whole ‘state of Western democracy thing’ goes, I am convinced it will collapse.
Erin Moyer is the Senior Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.