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The 2017 Emmy Awards: A Big Night for Diversity

Television’s biggest night has come and gone. In its wake, it has also made a name as one for diversity in the TV industry. This has been and continues to be one the most difficult years for human rights and social issues. The awards doled out to people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community remind us of how everyone can come together to create something that everyone will enjoy, and of how we can celebrate everyone’s success. One thing about diversity at the Emmys worth that is worth mentioning is the fact that every show in the Drama category finally had a chance to win since Game of Thrones did not qualify for this year.

The night started off with Stephen Colbert’s usual political satire, followed by an incredible cameo by former White House press secretary Sean Spicer that left everyone speechless. Colbert commended the awards for being the most diverse it’s been in years, a fact that surprises me still. How it is just now that they are starting to celebrate minorities who have been in the industry for years? Better late than never, but it is still shocking.

History was made last night and I was very glad that I got to witness it. Let’s start with the ray of sunshine that is Donald Glover.

 

He became the first African American man to win an Emmy in the category of Best Director in Comedy for his hit television series Atlanta. The crowd went wild for him. Donald Glover is in the height of his career. Glover received even more applause when he won his second Emmy of the night for Best Actor in a Comedy series for “Atlanta”. In total, Glover now has two Golden Globes and two Emmys for his role in Atlanta. It was truly inspiring to see him make history. Donald Glover is in the height of his career, he has had the best years of his career these past few years.

 While on the topic of leading men, we had Sterling K. Brown and Riz Ahmed win in the “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series” and “Lead Actor for a Limited Series” respectively. Sterling K. Brown is the first African American actor to win in the “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama” category since 1998. That’s a very long time. He certainly deserved every inch of that Emmy for his emotional performance in This Is Us. It easily tops his other Emmy-winning role as Christopher Darden in The People vs OJ Simpson. He gave one of the best speeches of the night and thanked his TV family by saying: “Milo, Mandy, Justin, Chrissy–you are the best white TV family that a brother has ever had. Better than Mr. Drummond, better than them white folks at Webster.”

If you haven’t watched This Is Us, I recommend you grab ten boxes of tissues and lock yourself in your room to watch it.However, the important thing is that the guy has talent and I am very happy he is being recognized by winning two Emmys in two years.

Riz Ahmed (pictured below) won “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie” and used his speech and adorable accent to bring forward the issues of Islamophobia. He is the first Muslim man to win the award. In light of this, he applauded the awards for the slow inclusion it has been doing over the past few years. He wrapped up his speech by saying that he is hopeful that more minority actors will stand in his place in the near future.

 

   

 

Next, we had Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe (pictured above) win for “Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series” for Master of None. While Ansari is an Emmy veteran, Waithe became the first African American woman to win in that category. During her acceptance speech, Waithe celebrated the  LGBTQA+ community by saying: “Last, but certainly not least, my LGBQTIA+ family. I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different, those are superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door put your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world. Because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if you weren’t in it.” Powerful words for a powerful night. The LGBTQA+ community has been through a lot during these past few years and seeing their name being rise up in a victory that is not stereotypical or insulting was a beautiful thing.

 The other big winner of the night was none other than the Netflix series Black Mirror: San Junipero. This entire show is sometimes depressing and can cause an array of emotions you didn’t think possible, but this Emmy winning episode is the happiest one of the entire series. It was a big representation for the LGBTQA+ community since the story revolves around two women who are in love. I will not say much. It’s better to watch it without knowing the plot.

We had the unofficial Queen of America, Oprah, present the final award of the night, “Outstanding Drama Series” and receive a standing ovation from everyone because, well, she’s Oprah. My favorite moment of the night was when Viola Davis went up to present and she was introduced as: “Please welcome Emmy, Tony and Oscar winner Viola Davis” in other words, “Bow down peasants, Mama’s going to speak”.

While the night was all about the big wins for diversity, history was also made by other TV shows. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, who must be tired of making speeches by this point, became the first woman to win an Emmy six years in a row for the same show, Veep. (Watching her win her sixth consecutive Emmy made me realize how much time I’ve spent invested in these awards shows!) The comedy category will find some fresh faces next year since Veep enters its final season. Every other comedy show will now have a chance! The Handmaid’s Tale became the first show from a streaming service to win the “Outstanding Drama Series” award, which was highly deserved; it’s fantastic and absolutely terrifying. The star of the show, Elisabeth Moss, also took home the award, making her the first actress from a streaming service to win “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series”.

Big Little Lies was my favorite show to win big last night. It took home most of the Limited Series categories. Nicole Kidman won for her role as Celeste and used her acceptance speech to bring awareness to domestic abuse, a topic heavily discussed in the show. Big Little Lies is amazing. I highly recommend it, although it might not be for everyone due to the harshness it exposes.

 The best reactions to winning an Emmy definitely went to Alexander Skarsgaard for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie” for Big Little Lies, and Ann Dowd for Supporting Actress in a Drama for The Handmaid’s Tale. Skarsgaard had mentioned in the red carpet that he had not written a speech and insinuated that he thought he wouldn’t win. When he actually won, you could tell his face said: “I wish I had written something.” He then gave a short and very sweet speech thanking his mother. Ann Dowd stood up when they called her name but she could barely walk; she was completely shocked and it was evident in her very emotional speech. They made me laugh a lot and made me very happy for them.

It was a big night full of history and surprises. I can’t wait to see what next year brings!

 

Photo Credit:

Starcasm, TomandLorenzo, Eurweb, EconomicTimes, PurePeople, & RevistaGQ

 

Gabriela is currently an English Major at the University of Puerto Rico. When she isn't reading fantasy books, she can be found writing them. She is a Vegetarian Hufflepuff that loves zombie fiction, an irony in itself. An aspiring filmmaker, she one day dreams of winning an Oscar for her films.
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