This year's Emmys were the most diverse yet, with more people of color nominated and winning awards than ever before. Of the 73 acting nominees, 18 were people of color, making up 24.6% of nominees. This was an increase of 2.5% from last year and a remarkable 14.9% from 2014. The People vs. O.J. Simpson had the most acting wins for African-Americans, with both Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown winning Outstanding Lead and Supporting Actor in a Limited TV Series or Movie.
With an awards show finally not dominated by white men, many used their time up on the stage to tackle issues of diversity, with Jill Soloway calling out Donald Trump and patriarchy, and Jeffrey Tambor imploring Hollywood to hire more trans people. However, arguably the best speech of the night was given by Alan Yang, who upon winning best writing for a comedy episode for Master of None's "Parents" along with Aziz Ansari, used the opportunity to point out the scarcity of acting roles for Asian-Americans. As he says:
"There’s 17 million Asian-Americans in this country, and there’s 17 million Italian Americans. They have The Godfather, Goodfellas, Rocky, The Sopranos. We got Long Duk Dong [Sixteen Candles], so we’ve got a long way to go."
Nevertheless, he didn't use the moment to despair, but rather to see his and Ansari's win as a beacon of hope:
"We have a long way to go. But I know we can get there. I believe in us, it's just gonna take a lot of hard work. Asian parents out there, if you could just do me a favor: If just a couple of you can get your kids cameras instead of violins, we'll be all good."
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Why They Deserved To Win
What was so validating about the win is that Ansari had tackled diversity before in the episode titled "Indians on TV," detailing how Asian-Americans are continuously given the short straw; starting with a now-iconic compilation of white people brown-facing up in order to play roles that should have gone to Asian-Americans. "Parents" is an extension of that, going on to explore in heartbreaking detail the immigrant experience in America through a dinner between Ansari and Yang's characters and their parents, in the process authentically telling the story of moving to a new country often forgotten in film and television. Therefore, by winning an Emmy for calling out the lack of diversity, Master of None is getting the barrier-breaking recognition it deserves.
It seems that while the world of television is seeing its diversity increase year upon year, the world of film still has a lot of catching up to do, especially in the light of #oscarssowhite. Additionally, while the representation for African-Americans at the Oscars is really bad, for Asian-Americans it is practically non existent. For now, it seems that the Emmys are pushing forward, leaving the Academy far, far behind.
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