The award is about image, but the image doesn't necessarily have to be upstanding.
Consider Denzel Washington as the pilot whose rescue of an airliner means the potential exposure of his vices in "Flight." That's one performance contending for outstanding actor in a motion picture in the 44th NAACP Image Awards, which NBC televises Friday, Feb, 1, from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
And that's not the only nomination gambling with the concept of "image." Don Cheadle's work as a ruthlessly ambitious consultant on Showtime's "House of Lies" has a bid for outstanding actor in a comedy series, and Vanessa Williams' sometimes questionable character on ABC's now-ended "Desperate Housewives" has her in the running for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series.
One of the most poignant NAACP nominations is that of the late Michael Clarke Duncan for the FOX show "The Finder," which ended shortly before his death last year. His slot is in the race for outstanding actor in a drama series, and the role -- technically a "good guy" -- was on the fringe enough to wonder what he'd do next.
Even Kerry Washington's alter ego on ABC's "Scandal" has broken existing molds. Her Olivia Pope, the spin doctor whose involvement with the American president has kept her looking over her shoulder, has her a candidate for outstanding actress in a drama series. Washington could have a very big night: She's also up for outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture for "Django Unchained."
Beside the riskier nominees are many of a more traditional nature ... a wealth of them for Lifetime's recent version of "Steel Magnolias." Its stars virtually own the contest for outstanding actress in a television movie, miniseries or dramatic special; Alfre Woodard, Jill Scott, Phylicia Rashad and Queen Latifah all are nominees, as are their male counterparts Afemo Omilami and Tory Kittles in their corresponding category.
If image is what counts, then, the NAACP has impressive choices to indicate the spectrum in its honors this year.
Photo/Video credit: Paramount/ABC/Showtime/FOX