Looking over a list of the last decade’s Primetime Emmy Awards, the latest of which took place last weekend, a pattern becomes readily apparent. Though the award ceremony has, in its own limited way recognised TV series centred around female characters and their relationships, there is a gaping hole when it comes to racial and sexual identity. With shows centred on white male characters historically topping the awards bill – The West Wing, Mad Men and Breaking Bad have continually dominated drama categories – series with a racially diverse cast have been sidelined or snubbed; recent examples include Jane the Virgin, Empire, and if you can believe it, The Wire.
This year, however, it appears voters are beginning to notice the non-white, non-cis, and female led shows that are remapping culturally relevant television. With Viola Davis, Uzo Aduba, and Amazon Studios’ Transparent all taking major awards, and Amy Schumer winning Best Variety Sketch Show away from a host of male peers, the Emmy’s may finally be taking a positive step forwards in race and gender representation. Viola Davis made history as the first woman of colour to win Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role in ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder. In her acceptance speech Davis called for greater diversity in television production, stating, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there“.
Uzo Aduba‘s emotional acceptance for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series noticeably touched the audience. The Orange is the New Black actor thanked a long list of people, adding “I love you mostly because you let me be me“. Transparent‘s creator, Jill Soloway, raised Trans civil rights in her own acceptance speech for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, urging people to support the upcoming Transequality Act; a bill that would help to legally protect trans people. Jeffrey Tambor also took Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his role as Maura in the show.
Other notable winners include: Game of Thrones for Best Drama Series, Veep for Best Comedy Series, and Olive Kitteridge for Best Limited Series. Game of Thrones broke records with 12 Emmy wins now attached to the long running fantasy series. However, with season five failing to inspire fans and critics alike, the show seems set to garner awards with increasingly little effort on its own part. Although the Primetime Emmy Awards have begun to reflect a more diverse range in television production, there is a long history of homogenisation to counteract. With actors like Viola Davis finally gaining recognition, let’s hope this minor victory for diversity will form something we can all build upon.
Check out the Emmy Awards website for a full list of nominations and winners.