The Emmy Award Nominations Are Announced - Am I Supposed to Be Offended... ?

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For those perpetually outraged, the Emmy nominations should provide a bit of a lesson.

Considering the fractured television landscape these days, and especially considering the rampant apathy for awards shows the past few years, the announcement of the 2021 Emmy Award nominations should not be a concern. And in reality, they are not. That, is in fact, the underlying thrust of this piece. 

Over the past few years, Hollywood has been grappling with the monochromatic appearance seen at the various awards programs. (This includes, technically, the BET Awards, as well.) It was with no small dose of amusement that the people calling themselves celebrities, who love nothing better than to lecture America on the perceived problems in our lives, were caught displaying the very privilege they vocally oppose. The #OscarsSoWhite scandal from a few years back was itself an Emmy-worthy comedy.

The Motion Picture Academy worked hard to be seen as more inclusive, including opening up membership to more diverse individuals, and last year saw a preponderance of POC performers nominated. This year, the Emmy Awards followed suit, to the extent that there are more than enough black performers tabbed that it looks like an overcorrection. The huge news was that a trans performer was nominated for the first time, Michaela Jae Rodriguez, for “Pose.” But across the acting spectrum, you see a wide array of color.

In Lead Actor for Drama, you have 4 of the 6 seen as black men. In Lead Actress it was 3 of 6. Lead Actor in a Comedy Series sees 2 of the 5 are blacks, and Lead Actress in a Comedy Series was 1 of 5. The hyper-diversity is seen elsewhere, as well. Actor in a Limited Series sees 2 of 5, and the Actresses 2 of 5. Supporting actor in a Comedy Series is 2 of 6, supporting actress is 2 of 7, Supporting Actor in Limited Series has 4 out of 6, 2 of 6. One could argue, on a demographic level, this is an imbalanced representation.

The entire point is this — it would be a stupid argument. But it goes further. The only reason it even occurs to me that there might be a grievance that I, a white male, see my race underrepresented in some categories is that we have been inundated with this type of thinking for years now. While it is entirely reasonable to want to have your people displayed in entertainment, the concept of getting offended over this type of proper representation in an awards show is ridiculous, for numerous reasons.

Just from the start, why would I, or anyone for that matter, take an offense or be somehow elevated by the fact that a certain wealthy and famous individual was slated to get a trophy? Let’s just look at a Sunday night presentation of a random awards telecast. If a person is announced as a winner, your life, come Monday morning, is in no way altered. The best you could possibly say is that if you are in the industry, and reside in the same demographic as the winner, then yes, there is a chance down the road doors might be opened that were otherwise closed. But for anybody else, your reality is not altered.

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For me as a white person to take offense at a perceived underrepresentation at the Emmy Awards would be seen as a ludicrous claim, but it would be equally inane for me to take pride if there was a list of white nominees who comported with the proper census percentages. Except this is not the case. 

We as a country are seeing things as an offensive front, and if only 9% of the nominees are black, when it should be at 12%, then there is a “problem.” The paucity of Hispanics in these awards shows is a glaring omission, given they are a larger segment of the country. Should they be more offended, more vocal, more activist? I ask because as I try to grasp onto the concept of being offended that “my people” might be underrepresented at the Emmys, it gives me some insight as to how ludicrous these kinds of offenses become.

How is my life improved — or even altered — by the racial makeup of an entertainment accolade? It is not, in any fashion, and this underscores the problem of divisiveness in the country today, and it can be dissipated in easy fashion. Understand one thing: The ratings for the Oscars, The Emmys, the Grammys, The Golden Globes, and most other awards telecasts have been eroding for years. 

These grievances and offenses attributed to the entertainment industry are completely neutered by a central reality — people from all demographics have been avoiding these shows for years. That is the basis of some true racial harmony. Let us, instead of fighting, find common ground in the fact that people from all races are turning away from these glamour-fests, and then we can start to see we have a lot more than even that in common. THIS is how America can heal. We share a collective apathy in what Hollywood is foisting on the country. Let that be a starting point for more unity ahead.