Diversity took center stage last night at the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, with women, people of color, and people from the LGBTQ+ community taking home some of the big wins, and marking some major Emmy milestones while they were at it.
Some have said that television is growing to be far more inclusive than the silver screen, and results from last night proved that might be true. #EmmysSoBlack started trending after there was win after win for people of color, which was a stark contrast against the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag that came about during the 2016 Academy Awards after people noticed the lack of inclusivity in nominations.
Riz Ahmed was both the first Muslim and South-Asian man to win an acting Emmy, as he took home the outstanding lead actor in a limited series for his role in The Night Of. When it came down to his acceptance speech, he used it as a powerful platform to spark a discussion on a serious issue.
“I want to say it is always strange reaping the rewards of a story that’s based on real-world suffering, but if this show has shown a light on some of the prejudice in our societies, Islamophobia, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that is something,” he said about his role, and how it is perceived. The Night of was an HBO limited series focused around Riz’s character being accused of murdering a woman during a night he can’t remember.
Lena Waithe was nominated for the show Master of None, and became the first black woman to win an Emmy Award for outstanding comedy writing. She shared the award with her co-star and one of the series creators, Aziz Ansari. The two received a standing ovation once onstage for the writing of the episode “Thanksgiving,” which focused on the character Waithe played, Denise, coming out as a lesbian.
Waithe thanked fans for “embracing a little Indian boy from South Carolina and a little queer black girl from the South Side of Chicago,” making this a milestone for both people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. Hooray!
Donald Glover took home two awards for his show Atlanta, and became the first person of color to earn an Emmy for outstanding directing of a comedy series. On top of that, his second award was for lead actor in a comedy series. On Atlanta, he is an actor, director, and executive producer. He was nominated for Writing for a Comedy Series, Directing for a Comedy Series, and Comedy Actor, which is the most a black performer or creator has been nominated for during single Emmy year.
Need any more proof that this year’s Emmy Awards put diversity at the forefront? Sterling K. Brown won the outstanding lead actor in a drama series for his role on the breakout hit, This Is Us, making him the first African-American winner since 1998, when Andre Braugher won for Homicide: Life on the Streets.
“I just want to say, Mr. Braugher, whether it’s at Stanford University or on this Emmys stage, it is my supreme honor to follow in your footsteps… Our writers, I love you. You are our life’s blood. Our producers and directors, I love you” Brown said during his hilarious but sentimental speech.
There were also waves made for women on television. Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton presented the award for outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie (which ended up going to Alexander Skarsgard for his role in Big Little Lies, BTW) but the three women got a standing ovation, as it was the first time they were reunited since their 1980 film, 9 to 5.
“Back in 1980, in that movie. we refused to be controlled by a ‘sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,’ and in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a ‘sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,’” Tomlin said, quoting her character as the audience lost it with laughter and applause — as it was a clear reference to the current political system.
Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale were both big winners last night, and both have been praised for their female-positive themes that focus on the societal treatment of women. Nicole Kidman used her acceptance speech for the award for outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or a movie to shed a light on the very real issue that is domestic violence. She and Reese Witherspoon are not only actresses on Big Little Lies but were also producers for the show, and Witherspoon took time during their acceptance speech to acknowledge the need for great roles for women in the entertainment industry.
“It’s been an incredible year for women on television,” Witherspoon said onstage. More than just an incredible year for women on television, it’s pretty obvious it’s also been a pretty outstanding year for POC and LGBTQ+ people. We can only hope that the progress continues for years to come.