The Emmys will be broadcast live this Sunday, and Hollywood could not be more excited. Whoever takes home a shiny golden statue will be raved about for a week or so, the show will get a bump in the ratings, and Los Angelites everywhere will be plastered.

While I have my own clear preferences for who should win and who should have been nominated to begin with (“Lost” didn’t get put up for Best Drama, yet did get nominations for supporting actors, directing and writing), I will eagerly anticipate the results and hope that, at the very least, Stephen Colbert wins something (his summertime “Wriststrong” campaign deserves at least one Emmy).

The thing that fascinates me about the Emmys, though, is specifically what they are recognizing, at least this year. If you look at the nominees for best shows in drama and comedy, as well as the list of best actors, you’ll see an eclectic list honoring the most flawed characters on television.

Consider, for instance, Dr. Gregory House. Badass, intelligent and rocking the cane, he’s an icon for the ages. Or there’s Anthony Soprano, the History Channel-watching Mafioso. Or there’s Jack Bauer, super counter-terrorist who spits on the United States Constitution (but only in order to save it).

While we expect perfection from people in real positions of power – corporations, government and entertainment – we idolize the most broken of people. I think of it as being akin to the gal who says she wants an upstanding, bring-home-to-mother guy but then takes off with the biker dude on his awesome Harley-Davidson.

The reason for this contradiction is worth exploring. We desire perfection, but we idolize perfection’s antithesis. What does that say about society? To me, it’s that we’re ridiculously too polite.

Before you look all bewildered, think about it. How many times has there been someone so infuriating that you’d just like to go up to them and tell them off? But unlike House, or Jack or Tony, we don’t. Not to say we should resolve our problems with waterboarding, but it’s got to be enjoyable to throw off social norms and tear into your boss once in a while. To say to the world, “You know what, I don’t have to take this crap; you’re annoying, go away.” To say to certain administrative officials, “Why don’t you just admit you hate kids and have no sense of empathy?”

Perhaps the Academy isn’t aware it is acting as a vehicle for our societal rage. But I’ll enjoy the awards nevertheless. At the very least, we get to enjoy Ryan Seacrest for three hours. And shots all around every time someone thanks Jesus or, more likely, their agent. Good not to get those confused.

Brenneman is a member of the class of 2009.



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