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Why Marie Kondo Deserves to Clean Up at the 2019 Emmys

The Netflix host does something no other reality television host can, and she deserves an Emmy for it.
  • Marie Kondo in Tidying Up With Marie Kondo (Netflix)
    Marie Kondo in Tidying Up With Marie Kondo (Netflix)

    In the weeks leading up to the July 16th Emmy nominations, Primetimer staff and contributors will be making our picks for which people (and shows) we think deserve recognition for their work this year. For your consideration today: Marie Kondo for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program for Netflix's Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.

    As Netflix has begun to expand their reality and lifestyle programming, we should expect their Emmy success to follow suit. While Queer Eye broke that ground last year in the Outstanding Structured Reality category, a just world would see one of their newest flagship personalities among the nominees this year: Marie Kondo.

    Tidying Up With Marie Kondo debuted this past season an immediate sensation, filling a Netflix gap for the kind of lifestyle show viewers would typically find on a network like TLC or Lifetime. But it wasn't the subject of each episode that became the story, it was the peacefully ebullient host that ignited our love affair with Tidying Up. Which is to say, [ahem], she sparked joy.

    The series examines life philosophies and organizational practices that stem from Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and other megasuccessful books prosthelytizing her KonMari method. Introducing us to a new domestic scenario each episode, the show concept initially seems somewhat familiar as a kind of home-centric self-help show bent on exploitation. But Tidying Up isn't that, and it's not in the least bit interested in sensationalism. Think Hoarders without the smushed cats and deep-rooted familial discord, or Trading Spaces without the schadenfreude-tinged edge of potential disaster.

    The difference is the influence of Kondo herself, the sense of compassion and ease that she brings with her into the homes of others. Her approach is more holistic, crafting a show that runs refreshingly antithetical to the conventional wisdom of drama-filled reality television. She is a radical presence on television for her gentleness, approaching each of her subjects with equal enthusiasm, whether they are struggling with grief or less heavy issues like those awkward, post-college years of maintaining a space that projects adulthood. It's like if Fred Rogers taught you a lesson in gratitude while sliding you a gift card to The Container Store.

    Perhaps the single greatest factor that makes Kondo such a no-brainer for an Emmy nod is how inextricable the show's identity is from the core philosophies that Kondo establishes. Asking her clients to consider which of their possessions "spark joy" and her can-do "I love mess" attitude have been meme fodder, but their simplicity makes for easily applicable processes to make simple positive changes in the lives of viewers. Most importantly, she coaches a respect for both our spaces and attachments to the past that ultimately fosters deeper appreciation of what our lives already provide us.

    Kondo still creates all of this without pretension or fussiness for the sake of producing grabby television. It's not just the sense that she genuinely cares about her participants and their growth, she crafts soothing television by embodying her teachings in their homes. If any skeptic might think thanking our old logo t-shirts and DVDs is too touchy feely, it's Kondo's authenticity that convinces.

    The larger cultural impact of Tidying Up and Marie Kondo's effect on viewers can be seen in the influx of donations that organizations like Goodwill saw in response to the show. In addition to conveying a show's tone, part of a host's job is effective and succinctly detailing its concept. Here the concept is guided by her KonMari steps, effectively teaching us along with each episode's household. Our sock drawers are neater, but our minds are also clearer. To put it another way, if our current times feel dominated by darkness, she's not just sparking joy but creating light.

    Which makes her something of an uncommon player in the competitive race for an Outstanding Reality Host Emmy nomination.  Not only wouldn't the show exist without her, it's merely a vessel for what she directly created. Did Jeff Probst sell millions of global copies for a book about outwitting the elements and group dynamics? Has Jane Lynch ever healed anyone by competitively pairing them with celebrities?

    In this regard, Kondo bears the most similarities to reigning Reality Host champion RuPaul. Certainly having his personal (albeit obviously very different) creative empire represent both the show in name and spirit gives Mama Ru a leg up on the Tom Bergerons of his competition. But a Netflix insurgency could make things very interesting. Don't be fooled by her modesty; Marie Kondo is a complete boss.

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    Chris Feil is a freelancer writer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His previous work can be found at Vulture, Vice, Paste, and The Film Experience. Follow him @chrisvfeil on Twitter.

    TOPICS: 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, Netflix, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, Marie Kondo