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Why Hasn’t Amy Adams Won a Major Award Yet? We Rounded Up Our Favorite Theories

It’s more or less impossible to go through a full awards ceremony being happy with every decision. But at last night’s Emmys, most viewers could agree on one focal point of their outrage: Why can’t Amy Adams win a major award? Between her six Oscar nominations and this year’s Emmy nomination, Adams has been overlooked time and time again (and that’s not even getting into Golden Globes).

Last night’s nomination for Lead Actress in a Limited Series (Sharp Objects) had seemed like Adams’s chance to finally get her due. But when Michelle Williams snagged the award for her role in Fosse/Verdon, Adams fans were left wondering: What will it take for these award shows to finally recognize her talent?

Devastated fans took to Twitter to express their frustration. “We Amy Adams stans will one day know joy,” one wrote. “Trying to hold it together because I literally thought Amy Adams was finally going to win,” another added. “If they ever create a ‘best amy adams category’ amy will lose it to isla fisher,” another joked. So, broken hearts aside: Do the people voting really have a grudge against Amy Adams specifically? Or is there something about the type of roles she’s taken that make her less likely to win?

A few theories exist for why Adams has never landed that Oscar win. Essayist Jeremy Helligar suggested that many of Adams’s nominated roles (Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter, The Master, American Hustle, Vice) were roles that relied on her playing the weaker of two counterparts — a necessary foil to Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Viola Davis in Doubt, or to Christian Bale’s Dick Cheney in Vice. Other years, it was simply bad timing: The one year she landed a Best Actress nomination (American Hustle), she was up against Cate Blanchett’s transformative performance in Blue Jasmine.

But neither of those explanations account for nominations like Sharp Objects, or her Academy snub for Arrival — two projects in which Adams was the undisputed lead with no clear frontrunners in the category — and yet she was overlooked. Philippa Snow makes an interesting note in i-D: Men have frequently (and with surprising off-handedness) commented on Adams’s perceived “plainness.” The Master director Paul Thomas Anderson once said of her: “She’s not very spectacular in real life. She’s just sort of … there.” Stephen Marche wrote for Esquire, “Women no longer need to be beautiful in order to express their talent … Lena Dunham and Adele and Lady Gaga and Amy Adams are all perfectly plain, and they are all at the top of their field.”

Whether or not you find these comments shocking (we did), they’re worth considering. Has Adams been overlooked for major awards because the people (mostly men) voting don’t find her flashy enough? Look again at those roles in Arrival and Sharp Objects: Her performances are brilliantly nuanced and moving, but a huge amount of the work is internal. She’s remarkable for what we see reflected across her face, for how much she can convey with just a glance — but is it possible that voters simply respond better to outbursts and altercations? (Even when Sharp Objects does become violent, the pain is mostly focused inward.)

So many times, Adams has taken on these “quiet” roles and excelled, making ensemble pieces like American Hustle possible and movies like The Fighter or The Master the masterpieces that they were. If we continue to demand that actors shout to be heard to earn these major awards (look at Leo! Look what lengths he went to in The Revenant for his win!), we’ll rob ourselves of a much more interesting type of performance. Actors need to be free to explore the whole range of human emotion — not just the pockets they think are most likely to make a splash.

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