Before Millennials ran the world, we were just sitting on the couch watching television. And a good thing, too, because we learned a few things that have now made the world a much, much better place for television watching.
No more laugh tracks (finally!), more women writers, actors and directors, and best by far: lots of complex, interesting, diverse characters. Whole casts of them! Entire shows of characters that are dynamic and interesting enough to walk right into your screen and start a conversation with. We’re not yet where we need to be—not by a long shot—but let’s take a moment to revisit our progress and savor last night’s most deserving wins.
No doubt there were some gems in the late 90s. Last Spring, in a bout of unemployment, I binge-watched all ten seasons of Frasier. Clever, smart, hilarious, the show deserves all the Emmys it won.
But also, I can’t name any people of color in the cast. Were there any? And Roz and Daphne were the only women regulars, and mostly they were defined by the men who longed for them (like Daphne by Niles) and their degree of promiscuity (Roz). But looks at the list of winners and find the non-white actors. How many shows didn’t feature an all-white cast? Nearly all of them.
By 2007, things were looking up. Notably, Grey’s Anatomy and Ugly Betty were nominated for 5 and 4 Emmys respectively. America Ferrerra took home best actress for her work on Ugly Betty. Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson both landed nominations for their work on Grey’s Anatomy (and can I say, so well deserved). Other noteworthy nominations: Vanessa Williams, Masi Oka, and Bharat Nalluri.
But this year. This year. -- Like an awards speech, we can’t cover everything, but we can start here: Of the five comedies nominated, three feature actors (casts!) of color as well as creators, writers, producers of color.
The Handmaid’s Tale, which is a TV show based on a novel written by a woman, features an the outstanding cast (mostly women), fantastic women directors and writers. Ann Dowd won outstanding supporting actress for her work and gave the most touching, heartfelt acceptance speech I’ve ever heard. So did Nicole Kidman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, also women over 50, an achievement in itself. Donald Glover, Sterling K. Brown, Riz Ahmed, Aziz Ansari all won big, and so did Lena Waithe who I mention separately just to make the point that while we’re celebrating the awesome progress we’ve made (because seriously, aren’t these shows also just the best?) we’re also recognizing the immense progress we have yet to make. There are so many talented actors (including Viola Davis, Leslie Jones, Samira Wiley who were also nominated) creators, writers, and directors that have yet to make it into a TV show, let alone make it onto the Emmys stage.
Networks are making a push for greater representation among women and looking forward to what the next decade (but hopefully even sooner) brings for diversity. Just like the Emmys are making progress in their space, so are we. We are pushing to make sure that we move beyond world where high prices dominate the prescription market. Help us make this a better world. Spread the word.