The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, which aired in September of 2019, awarded many fresh faces in Hollywood for their powerful acting, directing, writing and other achievements in television — but the question of diversity and cultural representation remained.
Compared to two years ago, the 2019 (and 2018) show lacked the diversity it seemed to finally be on the road toward embracing. In fact, commenting on the 2017 Emmys after its airing in her article “The Emmys Showed that Peak TV May Help Solve Cinema’s Diversity Problem,” Shannon Liao stated:
The 69th Emmy Awards ceremony, and the era of television that spawned it, illustrate a potential path forward that could help the film industry tackle its representation issues. As services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon increasingly invest in film, perhaps they’ll do there what they’ve already done in television: create an ecosystem where a broad range of diverse titles becomes the rule rather than the exception.
It’s clear, though, that we’re not there yet, and the few people of color who did take home wins this year made a point of speaking on the issue. Billy Porter, the first gay black man in Emmy’s history to win Lead Actor in a Drama Series (“Pose”), addressed his victory in his backstage interview by saying, “Visibility and representation are the only things that create change. It’s when we are visible that we have the power to create empathy through the way we tell stories. I know that being black and gay and out and being in this position and speaking from where I get to speak from is the change.”
Discussing the bias that continues in the entertainment industry, a bias that serves to maintain a lack of representation of varied global cultural identities — from those who identify as LGBTQ+ to people of color to cross cultural kids and adults and everyone else in between — Porter added, “I hope that young, queer people of all colors can look at me and know that they can.”
Despite the 71st Emmy Awards showing a distinct lack of representation when it came to its winners (only three people of color took home awards), Billy Porter’s triumph and subsequent message of inclusion left an impact on all viewers. The recognition of cultural mobility and diversity is extraordinarily important for the future, as the CCK, LGBTQ+, and other underrepresented minority communities only continue to grow.