Every year, the Emmy awards get announced and every year it feels like it’s the same narrative when it comes to diversity: “Some strides were made in TV, but there’s still lots to do.”
We’ve been singing that song for some time now and it’s a song that’s getting old. We’re doing the work but our return investment when it comes to bolstering inclusivity is a drop in the bucket. Baby steps, right?
I don’t know about y’all but I’m a full grown adult (allegedly) and taking baby steps is becoming sillier and sillier as each awards season passes — both Emmys, Oscars, BAFTAs, Golden Globes (is that even still a thing?) and everything in between.
It’s no secret that everyone from intentionally exploited communities are tired. They are exhausted — yet we still keep fighting for a place a table or building our own. In reality, I don’t see equity happening in our lifetime, but we can get as close to it as possible.
I was listening to one of the current episodes of the FANTI podcast with hosts Jarrett Hill and Tre’vell Anderson and Hill brought up a quote from the late legend Toni Morrison from 1975 keynote address that goes as follows:
“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”
…and perhaps that is what we should do. Stop feeding the dominant culture with our “fixes” and make them fix it themselves. We’re not here to fix racism and lack of inclusion in these institutions built by white people. Whether they want to admit it or not, they put the responsibility on the oppressed to fix a problem they created. Those from intentionally exploited communities are constantly trying to make change and the results are small moves of a needle and small battles that need to be won — but imagine if all the responsibility wasn’t on us. Imagine the change that could actually happen when we can just be instead of proving our worth in a space that wasn’t built for us to succeed?
Speaking from experience, there’s this feeling of “if not us, then who?” and to Morrison’s quote, we start to lose site of the actual work that needs to be done. It’s like giving us extra homework. We overwork ourselves to prove our worth and the get depleted until we have to explain ourselves again. It’s a cycle — and that’s what I see with the Emmys. Yet, we still move forward because like I said, if we don’t call shit out, who will? But that doesn’t mean Morrison’s quote isn’t front and center for me.
This year, based on the TV landscape it felt like it was going to not be as diverse as we want it to be. Then again, it’s the same every year.
Don’t get me wrong, there were good things happened this morning during the announcements of the Emmy nominations. Squid Game made history as the first non-English speaking series to receive an Emmy nom while its actors Lee Jung-jae, Jung Ho-yeon, Park Hae-soo, and Oh Yeong-su all scored nominations.
That’s good and all, but after a strong “diverse” 2021 roster of 49 acting and reality hosting Emmy noms, 2022 plummeted to 31. Again, not surprising.
Zendaya scored another nomination for Euphoria and made history as the youngest two-time acting nominee and youngest producer nod. Atlanta actor Donald Glover scored a nomination for lead actor while Oscar Isaac was nominated for Scenes of a Marriage. Other noteworthy noms included Himseh Patel for Station Eleven; Natasha Rothwell for The White Lotus, Colman Domingo for Euphoria as well as Sanaa Lathan and Arian Moayed for their guest spots on Succession. Also, Emmy fave Ted Lasso had tons of nominations including Toheeb Jimoh, Nick Mohammed, Sarah Niles, and Sam Richardson. The late great Chadwick Boseman earneed a posthumous Emmy nom for his role of T’Challa in the Disney+ animated series What If…? and even President Barack Obama was nominated for his narration on Netflix’s Our Great National Parks.
Bowen Yang earned another nom for Saturday Night Live while Jerrod Carmichael received a nom for when he hosted SNL around the time he came out on his incredible comedy special Rothaniel. RuPaul’s Drag Race continues to be a strong contender in the unscripted space, nabbing multiple nominations including Best Reality Competition and Best Host for the titular RuPaul, who has won the host trophy numerous times and if he wins this year, it will be his seventh Emmy in the category. Other than that, you can read a deep break down of LGBTQIA+ representation here.
I think one of the shining stars of the Emmy nominations is Abbott Elementary — and it’s well-deserved. The ABC sitcom was a critical and audience fave from the jump and broke records when it came to network TV ratings. All the accolades are well-deserved as we saw show creator Quinta Brunson get a nomination for acting and writing on the series. In addition, series stars Janelle James, Tyler James Williams, and icon Sheryl Lee Ralph earned nominations.
So yes, we did make strides this year, but I ask myself “When do we have to stop counting and doing the work to make sure we’re seen at these ceremonies?” Probably never because like Morrison said, “There will always be one more thing.” Until we do reach equity where we can just be and focus on the work instead of explaining our existence — we’ll have to keep pushing.
Shout out to the POC/queer-centered shows and inclusive nominees in the acting and reality competition categories at this year’s Emmys! And if you want, you can read all the nominations here.
What We Do In the Shadows
The White Lotus
Sherry Lee Ralph
Tyler James Williams
Jonathan Van Ness
A Black Lady Sketch Show
The Daily Show With Trevor Noah
Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls
RuPaul’s Drag Race