The 2015 Emmys Bode Well For Awards Season When It Comes To Self-Awareness & Change
When it comes to award shows, things aren't all fun and games. Of course, it's nauseating in the best way to see if your favorites win and always fun to see who stars brought as their date on the red carpet, but a lot of the conversation surrounding award shows has to do with deeper social issues that echo what's going on in the world at large. And, after seeing the 2015 Emmy awards, which aired Sunday night, it seems things are definitely looking good for the upcoming awards season as far as shows being more self-aware about the problems and criticism they face.
Some of the issues that often come up with awards shows are: Are the nominees and winners fairly or unfairly diverse? Are women on the red carpet being asked questions about their careers and not just what they're wearing? And, beyond the particular award show itself, are actors, directors, writers, producers, etc. of different backgrounds, colors, gender identities, and sexual orientations being given opportunities that could get them to the award show stage in the first place? As I see it, the first step towards any positive change that award shows could bring on is self-awareness and the Emmys definitely showed that.
Last award season, the #AskHerMore movement was created to bring attention to the fact that many women at red carpet events are not asked about their careers, but rather just about what they're wearing, their pre-show diets, or their "post-baby bodies." This isn't to say that they shouldn't ever be asked about the gorgeous dresses that the designers behind them put so much work into (always a good idea to just skip the dieting and baby bodies things, though), but rather that if men are going to be asked about their work, women should too. It seems pretty obvious, right? While E!'s red carpet coverage didn't entirely follow the wishes of #AskHerMore (come on, Giuliana, help your sisters out), host Ryan Seacrest seemed to have gotten the memo loud and clear. And Seacrest is basically the king of the red carpet, so if he's on the #AskHerMore train, it's likely the trend will continue rolling into future award show coverage.
Once we got to the actual award show, there were numerous mentions of diversity when it came to both race and gender. Some of these came in the form of jokes. For instance, host Andy Samberg joked about diversity in his opening sketch and in his monologue saying both, "I'm perfect to host because I'm white" and "Racism is dead. Don't fact check that." Later, he commented that Amy Schumer "is really, really funny. You know, for a person," clearly riffing on the old (and horribly offensive) "funny for a woman" line.
In a much more serious take on the politics of Hollywood, when Viola Davis became the first black woman to win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama, she gave a poignant speech that pointed out how award shows aren't going to become more diverse unless more opportunities in entertainment become available to begin with. During award season, viewers often point the finger at the award show itself when it comes to the lack of diverse nominees. And while history has left little doubt that award shows have perpetuated the white maleness of Hollywood, if opportunities aren't given to people of diverse backgrounds in the first place (and they very often aren't on many different levels), there's literally no way for them to ever be nominated. It was great to see Davis use her moment to touch on this, and bringing attention to this during the actual award show made for a powerful message that hopefully will influence others to make similar statements and that could bring about change.
Overall, whether the commentary came in the form of jokes, speeches, or red carpet questions, it seemed that the people involved with the Emmys were aware of the issues viewers are talking about and care about, and it was great to see that come into play during the show. Here's hoping that the upcoming winter award show season follows suit and that hosts, actors, and red carpet reporters don't hold back when it comes to making their opinions clear about the very event they're attending.