The 24-year-old became the youngest actress to take home the award for leading actress in a drama. The feat was a huge deal, considering the competition she was up against in the category: Jennifer Aniston, Laura Linney, Oscar winner Olivia Colman, and previous winners Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer of the BBC hit Killing Eve. It was great news considering how the Television Academy tends to lean when it comes to major acting categories. But was it an “upset”?
The New York Post seemed to think so. They shared a Tweet on Monday about her win that read, “Biggest upset: Zendaya wins Emmys 2020 over Jennifer Aniston, Laura Linney.”
Some people were immediately confused by the publication’s choice of words:
An upset, by dictionary terms, is “an unexpected victory.” But her win is an upset based on what exactly? Were people betting? Was she the unexpected winner because she was the youngest in the category? Was it because her series wasn’t nominated in the Outstanding Drama category? Or maybe it was because she hasn’t won some of the big awards the women she was up against have? I get all that, but I would agree that this was a poor choice of words — and overall, incorrect. She is not a newbie, her work hadn’t received a hot and cold reaction, and most notably, she was damn good as Rue.
I get it. Everyone loves The Crown and raved about The Morning Show. Killing Eve has been an Emmys fave and who hasn’t been impressed with Ozark and conversed about it back when water cooler talk at the office was an accessible thing? To some, perhaps Euphoria came off as a series mostly enjoyed and appreciated by young people, and the youth don’t vote for Emmys, nor do they often win them. But Zendaya’s performance, to me, was the one out of all the nominees that required the most shapeshifting. It was also the performance I noticed people on social media talking about the most, just for the range the star was able to show. She has spent the majority of her career on the Disney Channel, playing safe, lovable and comical characters for kids. The most risque she’d gone before the HBO hit was playing a trapeze artist in The Greatest Showman and MJ in Spider-Man: Far From Home. So to morph into an ongoing, sometimes recovering drug addict who finds herself in the middle of way too many ominous situations while simultaneously trying to deal with unrequited love for a friend, and to do so effectively, is worthy of praise. She not only had to be convincing, but she had to be good enough to completely shed the layers of her bubblegum beginnings. She did that, one depressive episode, overdose flashback and slow heartbreak at a time for eight episodes.
For the record, the New York Post would write about “Zendaya fans” misunderstanding their use of “upset”:
But I think people more so just wanted to make it clear that she was deserving of her place in history. Not only that, but they also wanted her win to be about her, and not about a conversation ruminating over who people thought should have prevailed in the category but didn’t. Despite whom critics may have assumed would take home the Emmy on Sunday, it was Zendaya who ultimately won, and she was incredibly deserving of the moment. So some are free to call it “an upset,” but we call it the sweet fruits of a job well done.
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