This weekend’s Emmy Awards celebration was one of the most diverse Emmy Awards celebrations ever. At least to hear them tell it. And tell it they did, whether they were awkwardly congratulating themselves for it, or awkwardly making fun of themselves for it.
“The only thing we value more than diversity is congratulating ourselves on how much we value diversity,” joked host Jimmy Kimmel. “The Emmys are so diverse this year, the Oscars are now telling people we are one of their closest friends.”
It’s not that there isn’t much to celebrate. This year was the first in Emmy history that every one of the lead acting categories included a nominee of color, who 18 of the 73 acting nominees. This year was the first in the last sixteen where the Best Actor in a Drama Series award went to a non-white actor. The first two director awards went to female directors, including one to Transparent’s Jill Soloway, who rightfully commanded the audience to “Topple the patriarchy!”
However, while the ceremony certainly represented a step forward in representing inclusion among nominees and award winners, it also served to highlight the shameful lack of inclusion still pervasive throughout Hollywood.
According to a recent study from the Directors Guild of America, only 17% of television episodes from the 2015-2016 season were directed by women, with only 19% directed by people of color. The number directed by women of color? A paltry 3%.
Being truly representative or inclusive, though, means more than dismantling the Hollywood white boy club. It means looking at the stories and talent present in underrepresented communities and offering them authentic opportunities on-screen.
“There’s 17 million Asian Americans in this country and there’s 17 million Italian Americans,” said Alan Yang, who, along with Aziz Ansari, received the award for Best Writing in a Comedy Series for their Netflix series Master of None. “They have The Godfather, Goodfellas, Rocky, The Sopranos. We got Long Duk Dong.”
And then there’s the fact that two of the men honored for acting, Jeffrey Tambor on Transparent and Louie Anderson on the FX series Baskets, were given awards for playing women.
Kimmel joked about Anderson’s casting early on. “Originally they were going to cast a woman for the role,” Kimmel said, “but it’s very hard to find an actress over 50 who needs a part, so they went to Louie.”
In one of the most potentially awkward moments of the night, Tambor used his acceptance speech to point out the hypocrisy of giving an award to a cisgender man for playing a transgender woman.
“I’m not going to say this beautifully,” said Tambor, “but please give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions, give them their story. Do that. I would not be unhappy if I were the last cisgender male to play a transgender female on television. We have work to do.”
As long as you don’t have to give you your own job though, eh, Jeffrey?
But perhaps the biggest indicator of how far the industry has to go in becoming truly equitable in its inclusivity, was when Beyoncé’s Lemonade lost out on the Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special award to Grease: Live. Could you possibly get any whiter than that?