Entertainment TV Emmys 2020: Diversity record broken, but far from fixed
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Emmys 2020: Diversity record broken, but far from fixed

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The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards has been praised for breaking diversity records and handing out the highest number of awards to black nominees, but experts say the reality is slightly less impressive.

This year, the Television Academy was applauded for including a record number of black stars in their considerations, with a total of 33 nominees.

But of the 33 hopefuls, only eight won – just one more than in 2019.

Fewer still were nominees (and winners) of Asian, Latinx or Indigenous descent.

All eyes and hearts were with Zendaya, took out the coveted award for outstanding actress in a drama series for her role as Rue on teen drama Euphoria.

At the age of 24, she’s the youngest recipient ever to win the award.

But she’s also only the second woman of colour to win the category. The first was Viola Davis (How To Get Away With Murder) in 2015.

Janak Rogers, journalist and associate lecturer at RMIT’s school of media and communication, said that while we should celebrate the progress, the outcome left viewers wanting.

“It’s important to celebrate any ground gained, and there is something substantially that’s shifted,” Mr Rogers said.

“Wind back five, 10 years, we weren’t even applying this sort of lens to the discourse at all, so it is a sign of progress, but it’s a sign there’s a lot more to be done.

“By nominating so many people but awarding so few, the fundamental message they end up sending is that there’s more work to be done … there’s a gap.

“The Emmys has risked showing itself up somewhat by bringing so many people on to be nominated and then not awarding them – that gap is something they’ll be reflecting on, in not only how they nominate, but also how they judge.”

Guest presenting during the ceremony, Black-ish actor Anthony Anderson noted the disparity and spoke of the disappointing effects of the coronavirus pandemic on what could have been a monumental night for diversity.

“We have a record number of black Emmy nominees this year, which is great,” Anderson said.

“These Emmys would have been the NBA All-Star weekend and Wakanda all wrapped into one.

“This was supposed to be the blackest Emmys ever – y’all wouldn’t be able to handle how black it was going to be, but because of COVID, we can’t even get in the damn building.”

Record-breaking awards

Though the outcome fell short of expectations, actors of colour still managed to snag some awards and break some records of their own.

Tyler Perry won the prestigious Governors Award for his commitment to representation, philanthropic efforts and for ensuring diverse stories are heard in Hollywood.

Delivering a stirring acceptance speech, Perry shared a conversation he had shared with his mother as a child, about employment and carving out space in white-dominated industries.

“She said, ‘Don’t you ever stand by a door waiting for white folks to do nothing for you’,” Perry said of his mother.

“She couldn’t imagine a world where her son was not waiting by the door for someone.

“She couldn’t imagine me actually building my own door and holding that door open for thousands of people.”

RuPaul made history as the host with the most wins, taking out his fifth consecutive win for RuPaul’s Drag Race, while Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us) and Jasmine Cephas Jones (#FreeRayshawn) became the first father/daughter duo to win Emmys in the same year.

#FreeRayshawn also delivered a win for Laurence Fishburne whose role as Lieutenant Steven Poincy saw him take out outstanding actor in a short form comedy or drama series.

Uzo Aduba won for outstanding supporting actress in a limited series for Mrs. America, while Maya Rudolph and Eddie Murphy won for their spots on Saturday Night Live! 

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