After years of ridicule for being “too white,” the Emmys continue its trend by awarding only three of 26 major awards to people of color. On the other hand, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has recently adopted new diversity standards for film categories at the EE British Academy Film Awards. Culture continues to be at the forefront of conversations involving film and television awards ever since the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite began trending on Twitter in April of 2015.
Since the hashtag went viral, Emmy producers have committed to cultural inclusion themes throughout all of their award ceremonies since 2016. In 2017 with host Stephen Colbert, the Emmys granted five awards to people of color while also nominating 29 others to have an opportunity at winning. In 2019, three major awards were handed out to people of color out of the 26 total categories: Jharrel Jerome was awarded Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for When They See Us; Billy Porter became the first openly gay black Emmy winner to win Lead Actor in a Drama for Pose; and RuPaul Charles won the Outstanding Reality Competition award for RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and halfway believed before I could walk around this Earth like I had a right to be here.”Billy Porter quoting James Baldwin in his 2019 Emmy acceptance speech
Hollywood has always lacked the cultural diversity it should achieve and it is demonstrated through predominately white casts and creative teams in shows like Game of Thrones, Fleabag and Chernobyl. The Emmys are under representative of the cultural diversity of the United States population. This begs the question, if Hollywood’s award shows should adopt BFI Diversity Standards like BAFTA has for the British Film Awards.
“The BFI Diversity Standards encourage equality of opportunity and address under-representation in the screen industries – in creative leadership; crew and project staff; in training, opportunities and career progression; in audience outreach and development; and on-screen.”The BFI Diversity Standards Criteria published in July 2019
If British films can’t demonstrate at least two examples of improved inclusion and representation that are outlined in the BFIs Diversity Standards for Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, their film will not be considered for the awards at all. The main goal of this process is to keep the BAFTAs standards of excellence for British film while also supporting a more inclusive industry.
The standards encourage new and current United Kingdom (UK) film projects to consider age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation inside their work environment. BAFTA and the BFI have also created workshops to help UK film projects meet the diversity standards. Overtime, this process will create a more inclusive UK film industry and embed the standards into the UK’s overall culture.
“We want to encourage, educate and support the industry to embed the Diversity Standards across all decision making, which will bring real and lasting change needed to allow the UK’s screen industries to benefit from the cultural and commercial benefits that real inclusion brings.”Amanda Nevill, CEO of the BFI, in an article from BAFTA published in June 2018
As for the Emmys, adopting these standards would not only demonstrate Hollywood’s commitment to an inclusive industry but it would also force predominately white casts to begin supporting areas of under-representation. Also, it would encourage winners to highlight the diversity campaign during their speeches because the entire show would already be representative of the inclusive industry movement.
Although, the BFI Diversity Standards are relatively new and untested in British award shows, the amount of diversity criticism Hollywood’s award shows receive should point Emmy producers in the direction of becoming more inclusive through any means necessary. The BFI Diversity Standards are a symbol of change and will lead to film industries across the world becoming more representative of cultural diversity.