With a record number of nominations for people of color, the 73rd Primetime Annual Emmy Awards were set up to be a beacon of representation and diversity. The reality proved to be much different, and social media is taking the Emmys to ask for it.
When the nominations for the Primetime Emmys were announced in July, Deadline reported that the amount of diversity represented in the noms was record breaking. Of all the nominated actors, 49 came from non-Anglo backgrounds, and 43 of those actors were in the drama series, limited, comedy, supporting and guest categories. In spite of the historic representation in the nominations, as Business Insider noted, every single major acting award went to white actors with The Crown, Ted Lasso, and The Queen’s Gambit proving to be the big winners of the evening.
It didn’t take long for #EmmysSoWhite to start trending on Twitter. Jay W. Walker proved to be an early prophet of the evening, guessing before the first hour was up that audience members waiting for some big POC wins would be disappointed.
Doubtless on a lot of viewers’ minds was Michael K. Williams, who died unexpectedly 12 days before the Emmys and was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Montrose Freeman in HBO’s Lovecraft Country. Williams lost to Tobias Menzies’ performance of Prince Philip in The Crown, as did Giancarlo Esposito who was nominated for The Mandalorian and O-T Fagbenle who got the nom for The Handmaid’s Tale. Fans were not happy about Williams playing second fiddle to Menzies, and overall grew more and more frustrated with The Crown‘s dominance.
In light of everything else, perhaps one of the most frustrating upsets of all the Emmys was Josh O’Connor taking home the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series trophy for his performance as Prince Charles in The Crown. With the exception of Matthew Rhys who was nominated for the lead role of HBO’s Perry Mason, every single actor going up against O’Connor was a person of color: Jonathan Majors for Lovecraft Country, Regé-Jean Page for Bridgerton, Sterling K. Brown for This Is Us, and Billy Porter for Pose.
To many watchers, the word that defined the Emmys could very well be “performative.” More than a few commenters noted not only on how many actors had been nominated without winning, but how the entire ceremony was filled with entertainment from Black talent, such as the Emmys host, Cedric the Entertainer.
Preston Mitchum of the Trevor Project was feeling less than hopeful at the white dominated outcome of the Emmys, and he expressed that understandable cynicism online.
In the time between now and the 2022 Emmys, there will probably be plenty of different calls to action to correct what many saw as a racist showing this year. Lifestyle editor Courtney Henley proposed one solution: leveling the playing field with representative numbers.
It’s perhaps impossible to know what’s in the hearts and minds of strangers, and the Emmys are no different, but considering how the night unfolded it’s impossible to blame those using the #EmmysSoWhite tag. When you’ve got a record number of POC actors nominated, and none win — particularly during a year with incredible series like Lovecraft Country and Pose — something went wrong.