Why the 2 Golden Globe Nominations for 'Transparent' Are Important

by Stacy Lambe 8:30 AM PST, December 11, 2014
Photo: Amazon

On Thursday, Amazon's Transparent received two Golden Globe nominations, making it one of the most surprising series to be recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. By picking up nominations for Best TV Series, Comedy and Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series, Comedy for Jeffrey Tambor’s portrayal of the transgender character Maura, the series broke ground on multiple levels. 

WATCH: Why Jeffrey Tambor Signed On for 'Transparent'

The streaming series, which tells the story of a father (Tambor) coming out as a trans woman to her family, marks Amazon’s debut as a competitive online network. The service now joins the ranks of Netflix, which continues to expand its domination of the TV categories with multiple nominations for House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. It’s significant because not only does it creep on the dominance typically maintained by cable networks, most notably HBO, but also slowly shuts the door on basic cable contenders.

Case in point: for the first time since its debut in 2009, Modern Family was not recognized for a single award and The Big Bang Theory was also shut out. In fact, basic cable networks slipped behind streaming networks with a total of only 7 nominations. Meanwhile, Amazon and Netflix earned a combined total of 9 for Derek, House of Cards, OITNB, and Transparent. If there’s any doubt that the model is changing then this should be a wake-up call for those not currently subscribing to Amazon, Netflix, or even Hulu.

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Just as important – if not more so – Transparent’s nominations also cap a year that saw an open conversation about transgender issues in media thanks to the likes of models Andreja Pejic and Carmen Carrera, author Janet Mock, and Emmy-nominated actress Laverne Cox. 

Fans and critics alike gravitated toward the show that was initially met with some controversy when Tambor, a cisgender – someone who identifies as the gender of the sex they were assigned at birth – man, was cast as the show’s lead. The show’s creator, Jill Soloway, addressed the issue by hiring transgender people across all levels of production. But it was the story itself that truly erased any concern about what audiences were capable of seeing. Soloway presented an honest, heartbreaking, and bitingly funny look at how a family accepting their parent’s transition.

WATCH: Laverne Cox Talks Her Historic Emmy Nomination

The edgy comedy also follows in the footsteps of OITNB, which stars Cox as trans female inmate Sophia Burset, and BBC America's Orphan Black, which introduced Tony Sawicki, a trans male clone of Sarah played by Tatiana Maslany. It really is a groundbreaking year given that this is the first time since Candis Cayne broke down barriers on ABC's short-lived Dirty Sexy Money in 2007 that viewers are finally getting positive portrayals of transgender people on TV.

"I'm so grateful that the show is being recognized," Tambor told ET after learning of the news. "We're sort of the little engine that could."

And quick on the heels of this nomination, ABC Family ordered My Transparent Life, a new transgender docu-series produced by Ryan Seacrest. This announcement comes as other networks are also planning transgender-themed programs. HBO is teaming up with Lena Dunham to film a documentary about a Brooklyn tailor that works specifically for transgender clients. Earlier this year, VH1 and Tyra Banks announced they were launching a new docu-series, TransAmerica, with Carrera. Meanwhile, the music channel's sister, MTV, has teamed up with Cox on Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word.

Transparent’s nominations may not currently outnumber The Good Wife or True Detective, but its impact will go (and already has gone) further than either one of those programs.