NEW YORK — The Emmy statuette depicts a winged woman, and this year's Emmy telecast celebrated a TV season in which women, as never before, were able to soar.
Strong roles about strong women abounded. And they were rewarded. The winning drama series and limited series ("The Handmaid's Tale" and "Big Little Lies," respectively) focused on issues of women — rather than defaulting to the male point of view — as a vivid way to explore the human condition. "Veep," which stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the former president of the U.S., won best comedy series.
Women also made inroads behind the camera, with Lena Waithe winning best comedy writer Emmy for "Master of None." She's the first woman winner ever in that category.
For many of the winners as well as many fans who were cheering them on, the Emmycast unfolded as a bracing rebuttal at a time when surveys continue to expose unfair representation by women in Hollywood.
"Let's hope that this is the beginning of something even better in our country and the world," said Louis-Dreyfus, savoring her record-breaking sixth win as Selina Meyer on "Veep." ''I think the world would be a better place if more women were in charge."
"We've made incredible progress, obviously," said Elisabeth Moss, who won the best actress Emmy for her starring role in "The Handmaid's Tale" as one of the few fertile women left in a world ruled by a totalitarian regime that treats women as property.
But she added, "There's still a lot of work to be done. There are still meetings you walk into and wonder if they say 'no' because it's a show by or about a women."
The answer, Moss said, is "not only women in front of the camera but it's women behind the camera."
"Feud: Bette and Joan," starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange in a robust saga of clashing queens of the silver screen, was a promising entry in the Limited Series category.
But "Feud" was edged out by another woman-centric drama, "Big Little Lies," which followed a group of mothers who each have secrets threatening to crash down upon her. The series collected eight Emmys also including best actress (Nicole Kidman), best supporting actress (Laura Dern) and best supporting actor Alexander Skarsgard, who, in accepting his trophy, thanked his colleagues for letting him be "one of the girls."
Indeed, two of the series' executive producers were Kidman and her co-star Reese Witherspoon.
Backstage, Witherspoon voiced delight that "we created four roles for women, and all got nominated."
The characters those women portrayed "were complicated. They were complex," she noted. "They were good and bad."
"What was so wonderful," said Kidman, "is that we had so many people, men and women of different ages, watching the show that went far beyond what we expected. As much as it was about women, it was for everyone."
In accepting her Emmy as one of the series' producers, Kidman implored the industry to create "more great roles for women, please."
But Witherspoon pointed out that "it's great to be the architect of your own destiny, and create material for yourself and . so many roles for women — award-winning roles. It turns out we know how to do it for ourselves!"
Associated Press Film Writer Lindsey Bahr and Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.