This year, the Emmys had the most nominees in history for actors of color with a total of 49 in the acting and hosting categories, but those nominees were left underwhelmed and disappointed at the end of the night. The nominations included actors from popular shows such as Hamilton, Lovecraft Country and SNL, starring the late Michael K. Williams, Kenan Thompson and Bowen Yang, among many others. What seemed like a promising start failed to deliver recognition to even one actor of color. With all the talent and groundbreaking new moves and TV shows this year, viewers are becoming more and more frustrated with the organizations that run these types of award ceremonies.
The Emmys award show is run by the National Television Academy. They have a group of active members of the Television Academy, which you can join by being in the field of television entertainment and paying a fee. This group of over 20,000 people comprises the voters. The Emmy website states, “The Emmys is a symbol of peer recognition.” This means that it is up to the people in the industry who are members of the Academy to be more inclusive and celebrate new and interesting moves in television.
The entertainment industry as a whole has faced criticism for this time and time again, yet it has not made a substantive change. Journalist Ernest Owens spoke on the nature of the awards, explaining, “[The] Emmys do this every year: Nominate a diverse selection of our faves, only to give them to the same white actors and/or stories. Middle-aged white folks in conflict or British period pieces will win over nuanced, multi-dimensional plots involving characters of color.”
There were messages throughout the awards show promoting inclusivity and diversity from hosts and presenters, but it all turned up hollow as the viewers waited through all the commercials, speeches and hype, hoping that the Academy would demonstrate their message of diversity by awarding well-deserved actors of color. The moment that the people were looking for, however, never came.
However, there were still a few silver linings. Michaela Coel won the Emmy for Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special for her show I Will Destroy You. Coel is the first black woman to ever win in this category. On top of this, Ru-Paul has broken the record for most Emmys won by a person of color ever, with 11 total wins over the years. This year RuPaul’s Drag Race won Most Outstanding Competition Program. These wins are still something to be celebrated as viewers hope for more accountability and change for the years to come.