At what point does a fan theory become so ubiquitous that it stops being a theory?
Back in January of last year, as Jane The Virgin was in the midst of its first season, I tweeted the following to my A.V. Club colleague Kayla:
This was a week after the show’s Latin Lover Narrator told audiences that Michael would believe he and Jane should be together “for long as Michael lived, until he drew his very last breath.” It was a notable piece of foreshadowing for a show that had already shown its interest in exploring the high stakes of the telenovela, and antennae have been up ever since.
But it was later in the second season that Michael’s fate became a larger topic of conversation. And in this case, it wasn’t the kind of explicit foreshadowing that the writers introduced in the first season, but rather a practical reality of the situation that was being established: Michael was too perfect to leave the season unscathed. The life being set up for Michael and Jane following their engagement was too perfect: he was too understanding about the co-parenting with Rafael, he was too willing to accommodate Jane’s neuroses, and he was romantic in ways that are simply not sustainable for an ongoing television series. Jane can’t be as happy as Michael was making her for the show to move forward with wedded bliss as the status quo. Something had to give.
And people noticed. Some of us simply trolled our Twitter followers, making sure they were prepared for the pending doom (it was what The New Yorker‘s Emily Nussbaum was talking about on Twitter in the hours before she earned her Pulitzer). Vulture wrote a whole article about whether or not Michael was going to die. And the textual evidence was only kept mounting: the couple exchanged their vows before their wedding, for example, which is a telltale sign that something is about to go terribly wrong. And so by the time we got to tonight’s season finale, we were past the point where the antennae were up, and to the point where I turned to my mother—who has only seen the pilot, which I showed her earlier today while visiting—and told her flat out that Michael was about to die.
But as much as something terrible happening to Michael wasn’t a question going into “Chapter Forty-Four” wasn’t a question, I did have a question about it: is it a problem that we all knew it was going to happen?
Orange is the New Black competed as a Comedy at the 2014 Writer’s Guild Awards. It then competed as a Drama at the 2014 Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe Awards. It then competed as a Comedy at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards and the 2014 Emmy Awards, before eventually winning its first major awards at the 2015 Screen Actors Guild awards competing as a Comedy.
This happened because the system allowed it to. Regardless of whether or not we believe Orange is the New Black is a drama or a comedy, the distinction was more or less up to Netflix, who consciously positioned it as a comedy in part to reduce competition with its other major awards contender, House of Cards. I would argue the show is unequivocally structured as a dramatic series, but that didn’t matter, because the system has no qualitative measure to change this. Over this same period, Showtime’s Shameless made a similar switch late in its run, petitioning to become a comedy (and earning William H. Macy an Emmy nomination and Screen Actors Guild win in the process); Gilmore Girls did the same late in its run, trying desperately but failing to earn Lauren Graham a nomination.
I feel pretty safe in saying that Orange is the New Black and its “category fraud” are the impetus behind an Academy rule change announced today that labels half-hour series as comedies and hour-long series as dramas. While Shameless’ category switch is likely a contributing factor, I feel comfortable calling this the Orange is the New Black rule, directly targeting a series that I would tend to agree is committing category fraud based on the objective facts of the show itself.
Upon accepting her Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama Series, The Affair’s Ruth Wilson shared the story of her first Golden Globe nomination for the 2007 miniseries, Jane Eyre. That nomination came in the year of the Writer’s Strike, when the 2008 Golden Globes were announced in an Entertainment Tonight-style telecast as opposed to the lavish Beverly Hilton celebration we have come to associate with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual “kudos.”
My first reaction to Wilson’s story was a little bit of shock at her bluntness at admitting she had been disappointed to lose that award (to Queen Latifah)—that’s rare. However, upon reflection, her callback to that particular year puts the meaning of this year’s Golden Globes and my shifting relationship with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in perspective.
There are likely a wide range of political reasons why the Golden Globes were unable to negotiate for the waiver that could have saved the 2008 ceremony, and given that the Oscars faced a likely boycott had the strike not ended it’s not as though the HFPA were alone in their contention with the WGA regarding the place of award show broadcasts during the strike (only the SAG Awards, due to Guild solidarity, won a waiver). However, something about the Golden Globes seemed particularly at odds with the climate in Hollywood during the writer’s strike: when the city of Los Angeles is dotted with picket lines, it seems weird to throw a lavish party at the Beverly Hilton.