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2012 Emmy Longshots: 'Mad Men' Stunner Kiernan Shipka

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Jun 25, 2012 | 2:15pm EDT

ALTYou love them, we love them, and it's high time Emmy recognized them. We're talking about the TV actors and actresses who have yet to be recognized by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, despite drawing us in week in and week out with their awe-inspiring ability to make us laugh, cry, or a weird combination of both. So every day here at Hollywood.com, we're going to be saluting those on the small screen who deserve an Emmy nomination, longshot status be damned. Today, we cast our ballot for Mad Men star Kiernan Shipka.

The very recently concluded fifth season of Mad Men — a longtime Emmy darling that is sure to rack up a nomination or 5 — was arguably its most polarizing to date. Many fans and critics lauded the so-called "season of the women", while others criticized its increasingly pessimistic tone, and creator Matthew Weiner's sudden obsession with newcomer Jessica Paré. The series' eleventh episode, which found fan-favorite Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) making a very out of character decision, was especially divisive — but everyone seems to band together when it comes to the scene-stealing presence of Sally Draper (Shipka).

It's not like Sally's outstanding contributions to the show are anything new. After her fantastic performance as a child coping with her parents' divorce in season 3, she was promoted to series regular — which is an impressive feat for a kid on a show that focuses on sex, infidelity, and the human condition in New York's swinging '60s. (It's even more impressive when you remember that Weiner was asked to eliminate two characters during season five's long negotiation process.) But this season, as she began her difficult and often messy journey into womanhood amongst some of the most selfish characters on television, she became something else entirely — our relatable window into the madcap world of Mad Men.

The adult characters presented on this show — Don Draper in particular — are often larger than life. And the majority of Mad Men's viewers will have a hard time truly identifying with the Dons, the Bettys, and the Rogers that populate Mad Men's bizarre universe — mostly because we were either not alive, or children during the 1960's. Mad Men's fans didn't day drink in a corner suite or face office discrimination during the '60s or '70s, because we were too busy watching cartoons and falling for our own version of a creepy Glen. (Hey, no one said young love was perfect.) We're not watching ourselves on this show, we're watching our parents and grandparents — with much of the same wide-eyed, rapidly decaying innocence of Sally Draper. These people are messed up, and having Sally around as our honorary representative is important.

When Don was honored by the American Cancer Society in episode 7, Shipka managed to perfectly blend the shock and disgust Sally was feeling with her utmost desire to appear grown up and poised. Her face when she opened the door and found her step-grandmother fellating her "date" for the evening really said it all. When she called Glen later that night to complain that Manhattan was "dirty," boy did we agree with her. Even more impressive was her work in episode 4, "Mystery Date", which found Sally stuck at home with her miserable maternal step-grandmother, dealing with the abject horror of the Richard Speck murders. Grandma Pauline, ever a product of her own generation, expected the pre-teen Sally to behave like a fully grown adult, even though she frequently treated her like a child. (Been there.) Sally's well thought out but petulant behavior was great to watch, as was her perfectly appropriate childlike response to news of the murders. Who wouldn't want to curl up and hide upon first learning that true monsters really do exist? (No, not Betty Francis — though Sally's plot with her mother and step-mother is an Emmy-winner in itself.) 

All in all, Shipka manages to steal every scene she's in. Though we love our Peggy, our Ken, and our Joan, it's Sally's experiences that are the most universally relatable, and it takes a very talented actor to make those experiences so emotionally powerful for the adults who went through them decades ago. Shipka makes it seem easy, and though we love Sunday night television's other female teen powerhouse (Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams as Arya Stark), it's Shipka that deserves the Emmy nomination this year. Thanks for making our own adolescence seem a little less terrifying in comparison.

Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna

[PHOTO CREDIT: AMC]

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