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Emmy Wins and Calls for Diversity

Photo labeled for reuse. Courtesy of Aranami.


The Hollywood film industry has been heavily criticized in the past because of the lack of representation and diversity among the casts of films and movies that typically take home wins. In recent years, the rise of social media and the ability to state our thoughts on a public platform have upped the conversation around this issue — and the 71st Emmy Awards, which aired September 22, 2019, was no exception.

People of color took home only three wins at this year’s Primetime Emmys: RuPaul for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”), Jharrel Jerome for Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (“When They See Us”), and Billy Porter for Lead Actor in a Drama Series (“Pose”). Though this award show missed the mark when it comes to diversity and inclusion this year, these wins can’t be underplayed or disregarded. History was made, and if anything, this shows more people are pushing for a future of acceptance.

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Billy Porter takes home the Emmy

Billy Porter’s win was an extremely proud and historic moment for all people watching, especially those of cross-cultural backgrounds and the LGBTQ+ community. His speech was a call for equality and an acknowledgement that there needs to be growth and change, not just within popular culture but throughout the world. During his backstage interview, he acknowledged the position he is in:

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.

Similarly to Porter’s, RuPaul’s win was also a celebration of diversity and highlighted the underrepresentation that still exists while acknowledging the change that can be made. RuPaul, too, used his speech to push for change, setting an example for what future Emmys should celebrate.

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Ross Matthews, Ru Paul, Carson Kressley at the Emmy Awards

Jharrel Jerome became the first Afro-Latino actor to win an Emmy, and while this visibly demonstrates representation in the film world, there are still important questions to be raised. Backstage with reporters, Jerome was asked, “Oftentimes we, people of color, are awarded for things that portray a lot of black pain. Are you torn by that, knowing that those are the types of things that get awarded in these types of spaces?” His reply: “You’re absolutely right … Unfortunately, I think our strongest stories are the stories of pain, considering that’s what we go through on a daily basis … I think the truth is, our pain needs to be told.”

He went on to acknowledge the constant struggles people of color experience and the importance of sharing that with the rest of the world. From this, others can learn and be inspired to change such harsh realities. Jerome winning this award is a win for not only him but also for other POCs watching at home and seeing what is possible.

The Emmys nominated 26 people of color for awards this year and it is a noticeable change from last year’s 38 people nominated. Although the numbers from previous years signify a trend toward a more inclusive and diverse awards show, it still misrepresents the lack of diversity behind the scenes.

Shows such as “Game of Thrones,” “Fleabag,” “Chernobyl” and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” presented overwhelmingly white casts, as they accepted their awards onstage. Although, people argue the award show itself cannot determine the composition of the casts, it brings light to the idea that Hollywood lacks diversity and inclusion. With new diversity standards in Britain requiring shows to make their cast more inclusive to ultimately set a new standard for the entire British film industry, it begs the question if the Emmys or Hollywood should try something similar.

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