Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

The 2019 Emmy Awards: Diversity and Inclusion

Jonathan Blum

The 2019 Emmy Awards, held on September 22 at the Microsoft Theater (formerly the Nokia Theater), brought together all of the main television celebrities for a recognition of their work. Like this year’s Oscars, the 2019 Emmys did not have a single host at the helm, rather, the awards were presented by several actors who brought the ceremony to life.

This year’s winners included series such as Game of Thrones, Fleabag, Chernobyl, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Fosse/Verdon, The Act, Killing Eve, When They See Us, and Black Mirror, which stood out not only by the number of nominations they received, but for the mark they made on their audiences.

Some productions were trending well before the Emmys. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, for example, released a new interactive film format for television. It is a choose-your-own-adventure film with several possible endings, making Bandersnatch an entirely new television experience. Its originality earned it an Emmy for Outstanding TV Movie.

The Game of Thrones (GoT) series shone at the Emmys for the fourth consecutive year—even breaking its own record—with 32 nominations. Despite not winning in several categories, it took home the Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Support Actor awards. The series’ successful social media strategy is what stands out to me personally, with fans themselves driving the production’s trending status throughout its eight seasons.

Diversity and speeches on inclusion abounded. Billy Porter (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Pose) addressed the importance of self-value, speaking out against discrimination, and standing up for your rights. The series vindicates the role of the trans community in queer culture and portrays the difficulties it faced during the eighties. The fact that DuPaul’s Drag Race won Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program also reflects how diversity has made headway in the entertainment world.

Michelle Williams, who won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her role in Fosse/Verdon, spoke out about pay equality in the film industry and thanked FX and Fox 21 Studios for paying her and her co-star, Sam Rockwell, equally. She highlighted that gender equality is not yet a reality in all productions and that it progress in this area is paramount. Williams also advocated for eliminating the pay gap for black women, “because one day she might stand in front of you and say, ‘Thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment and not in spite of it.’”

Patricia Arquette, winner of the Outstanding Support Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for The Act, was another female figure who delivered an inspiring speech. Remembering her sister Alexis Arquette, transsexual actress and activist who passed away in 2016 due to an AIDS-related complication, she spoke out against transgender discrimination and demanded equal respect and opportunities for them.

These awards are proof that the television industry continues to evolve. HBO and Netflix are positioning themselves among the best series producers, offering new content that goes way beyond conventional television. It is encouraging to see how topics that would have been polemic just a few years ago, are now being openly discussed, with the When They See Us series serving as a perfect example as it depicts discrimination and violence inflicted upon African-American people in a story about five friends who were forced to falsely confess to raping a white woman.

Television is set to continue expanding its viewing options, making the most of cultural openness and new technologies to improve user experience and offer quality productions.