If you watched the 2016 Primetime Emmy Awards then you, like me, witnessed an unprecedented event. It’s was something so unexpected, so frighteningly rare that I honestly couldn’t believe it was happening. If the Emmy’s was Catholic they would have been given an instant Sainthood, because last night was a miracle at its greatest.
No, it wasn’t host Jimmy Kimmel’s opening segment; it was funny in a typical Kimmel ribbing fashion. What exactly happened? A true rarity in Hollywood, the people who deserved to win actually won!
Yes, the winners were all deserving. They didn’t win because they had the most twitter followers, they are the current Hollywood darling, they won because they were the best. I say this in light-hearted humour, but all too often this is not the case. So if you, like me, were watching out of habit, expecting the same old actor to win, you were delighted to see Sterling K. Brown go up to accept his award for his portrayal of Christopher Darden in The People v. O.J. Simpson with such pure passion and appreciation. This is a man who has worked for a long time in the industry, finally feeling like he is being recognised.
You were grinning at the sight of Rami Malek in utter disbelief for winning Lead in a Drama for a role where he does an amazing job, yet against the likes of Liev Schreiber and Kevin Spacey, winning felt out of the question. Don’t get me wrong, Liev Schreiber and Kevin Spacey are great actors, but they are also at the top of the patriarchy; white, straight male. This is not a bad thing, it’s just usually the most favoured thing by the Hollywood elites. So when for the first time in eighteen years a non white male wins, it is a shock. For the first time in a long time voters were given the option to choose from a variety of actors, directors and television shows and with this rich talent pool came the option to actually vote for someone different.
There were many diverse and deserving winners (Kate McKinnon - Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, Courtney B. Vance - Lead Actor in a Limited Series, Sarah Paulson - Lead Actress in a Limited Series) but the one that was most memorable for me, the one that had me fangirling was Tatiana Maslany finally getting her well overdue win, Lead Actress in a Drama for Orphan Black.
This woman, oozing natural charm and even more natural talent, plays thirty different characters each season in a show about clones, a genre show and a show dominated by female performances (okay I lie it is more like eight). All so distinct and perfectly rounded, you always forget that one woman is playing each character. I was honestly cheering when she won, and I’m that downer person who looks at everyone with a sigh when they start cheering in the theatre; like I get it you’re so into this, just sit down and cheer internally like all us ‘afraid to show our emotions in public for fear of embarrassment’ people do, you know ‘normal’ emotionally stunted people like me (please don’t judge). But for the first time watching an awards show, I cheered. She deserved it. They all did.
So why the change this year? Well there is one word to describe it - diversity. Yes people, so diverse were the nominees this year that the voters didn’t have to choose between the same old options. Now rich with people of all races, genders and sexualities, now filled with talent of all kinds, this year saw a departure from the same old options, now reflecting the world as it is. White, Black, Asian, Gay, Straight, first timers and sure bets, there was a mixed bag of winners and none felt undeserving. We want to see realistic representations of the world as it is on the small screen and we are getting it.
Not only does giving more opportunities create opportunity for those otherwise going under the radar, but it pushes everyone out of their comfort zone. It creates a Hollywood with quality television that challenges everyone to up their game. We live in a time where there is so much good television we have at least half a dozen shows on the binge watch wait list at any given time.
It makes me ponder in confusion at the idea some have that the status quo shakers want hand outs, demand ‘free ride’ equality that the rest have to work for. When Viola Davis won Lead Actress in a Drama last year she said it perfectly, “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there”. This woman, this talented woman was the first black woman to win in this category ever, but it is so very applicable to all minorities. It was with utter poignancy she spoke “The only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is opportunity”. No handouts, no free rides, just opportunity. With the progressive surge in Hollywood, this is happening more than ever. More acknowledgement of the struggles of the transgender community in media, more depth of characters for gay actors, more than just stereotypes for Asian actors. As Jeffrey Tambor took the stage to win Lead Actor in Comedy, second year in a row for Transparent he said what the world needed to hear, “Please give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions. Give them their story”.
This year saw winners from all walks of life. Did Game of Thrones win again? Of course! Did Julia Louis-Dreyfus win again for Veep? You sure bet she did. Did they deserve it? Absolutely! If you didn’t walk away from the Emmy’s this year with a huge smile on your face, with your faith in humanity flourishing, with a cringe worthy fist pump to the air and the pride you felt in us as a species that we actually got it right, then too bad. The Emmy’s was a win for all the nominees and viewers alike. It was a firm indication that we are moving forward as a society, away from the numbing narrow-minded bigotry that shrouded the past, forward to a time when winning is based on one thing, given the opportunity, you proved yourself the best.
Rami Malek’s speech saw him rip a quote straight from his show Mr Robot, “Please tell me you are seeing this, too.” Honestly, I wouldn’t have believed it otherwise.
5 out of 5 stars