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Emmy Awards criticised after nominating Bella Ramsey, who is non-binary, for Best Actress

‘The Last of Us’ star received their first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series

Meredith Clark
New York
Friday 14 July 2023 16:53 BST
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Bella Ramsey says having cereal with orange juice is ‘so good’

The 2023 Emmy Awards are being criticised after nominating non-binary actor Bella Ramsey in the Lead Actress category.

This week, Bella Ramsey received their very first Emmy nomination for their role as Ellie in the HBO drama series, The Last of Us. In fact, the video game turned apocalyptic thriller received several Emmy nods, including Best Drama Series.

The 19-year-old was nominated alongside Sharon Horgan, Melanie Lynskey, Elisabeth Moss, Keri Russell, and Sarah Snook for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series. However, the Television Academy’s decision to place Ramsey, who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, in a gendered category has struck a nerve with some fans of The Last of Us.

“‘Best Actress’ for an openly non-binary person who wore a binder the entire filming hahahahaha sick,” said one user on Twitter.

“Putting Bella Ramsey in a ‘Lead Actress’ category when they’re non-binary is such an awkward position to be in,” another agreed.

“I feel so bad for them because like, they can’t get a prize for their hard work without misgendering themselves and yeah. I feel that lol,” said someone else.

While many people expressed their disappointment that a non-binary actor was placed in a gendered acting category, some users still shared how Ramsey’s nomination helps spread awareness towards trans visibility and inclusion.

“There’s obvious weirdness around gendering an award nom for a non-binary actor, but just want to say Bella Ramsey freaking rules and they deserve this so much,” one fan said, while another wrote: “Just a good a** time in the entertainment industry for non-binary and trans people. A long time coming, but things are changing.”

Bella Ramsey, who is also known for starring as Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones, came out as non-binary in January this year. In a recent interview for British Vogue’s July 2023 issue, Ramsey confirmed that they feel most comfortable using they/them pronouns, despite previously admitting they “couldn’t care less” what pronouns to use.

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“I had a lot of anxiety around pronouns,” they told Vogue UK. “When The Last of Us first came out, I was like: ‘Everyone just call me she because I look like a she to you, so it’s fine.’ But now I’m able to vocalise it more, being called ‘they’ is the most truthful thing for me. That’s who I am the most.”

While many fans took issue with the Television Academy nominating Ramsey in a gendered acting category, some people noted that it was actually Ramsey who decided to submit themself for Lead Actress. Speaking to Vanity Fair last May, the British actor opened up about the “uncomfortable” choice to submit an actress at this year’s Emmys.

“The categories at the moment feel extremely gendered with the language around them,” Ramsey said. They spoke to The Last of Us creator Craig Mazin about potential alternatives to submitting for the Emmys, but ultimately decided to contend as an actress.

“I don’t want the limitations in terms of the language in the categories to be a reason that non-binary actors like me can’t be celebrated,” Ramsey added. “And it can open up a conversation about how it feels – as long as I’m aware of the fact that it’s not ideal, but also that finding alternatives is really complex.”

Following their Emmy nomination, showrunner Craig Mazin revealed to Variety that he spoke with Ramsey about the difficulties of representing non-binary actors with gendered award show categories.

“It’s a really interesting challenge,” he said. “On the one hand, the conversation about gender has transformed dramatically and in a very progressive and positive way. On the other hand, we have to practically make sure that by moving away from gendered categories, we don’t shortchange traditionally overlooked folks.”

“We know that in non-gendered categories like directing and writing, women have been historically under-appreciated,” he added. “I don’t know the answer, but I have every expectation that non-binary performers will soon be recognised in the respectful and appropriate way they deserve.”

Bella Ramsey previously revealed that they wore a chest binder for “90 per cent” of filming The Last of Us.

Meanwhile, Yellowjackets star Liv Hewson said they will not be submitting themself for 2023 Emmy consideration. The 27-year-old Australian actor, who identifies as non-binary, explained that it would feel “inaccurate” to submit themself into a gendered category.

The 2023 Primetime Emmy Awards nominations were announced just days before the Screen Actors Guild joined the ongoing writers strike, marking the first time since 1960 that both actors and writers have picketed film and television production companies. It’s unclear what effect the Hollywood strike will have on the upcoming Emmy Awards.

Much like the WGA, which has been on strike since early May, SAG-AFTRA members are demanding the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to increase wages, improve working conditions, and provide higher streaming residuals.

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