by The Cowl Editor on September 30, 2021
by Christina Charie ’25
After watching the Emmys on Sunday night, viewers were angry about the results, as they found many of the shows selected were quite out of touch for a 2021 awards show. From a simple glance at the Academy’s executive board page, it became evident that there is a significant lack of diversity, which has prompted the Twitter trend #EmmysSoWhite.
The voting process for the Emmys is incredibly vague from the description found on the official website. In fact, according to the website, an individual or program can self-nominate. Voters are composed of peer groups representing the various categories within the industry. All 16,000 voters (about the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden) decide the nominations in the larger categories, such as Best Comedy or Drama, while peer groups vote on Best Actress or Best Actor awards. The Academy also names the Ernst and Young Accountants as their ballot checkers. Final round voting is based on peer groups as well.
The voters are required to verify that they watched the shows, but the verification process is not defined, leading to questions of how actively engaged voters actually are with the shows. Additionally, when going through the nominee lists from the late 2000s, finding a nominee of color is difficult.
Even this year, people questioned how Josh O’Connor won Best Male Actor in a Drama Series, beating out Regé-Jean Page, the breakout star from Bridgerton. Out of six nominees, four were men of color. Billy Porter from Pose won in 2019 and Sterling K. Brown from This Is Us took home the trophy in 2017, but neither was selected for the award this year. A common thread between these two award years includes the absence of The Crown—a show with a predominantly white cast—from the nominees in those years.
Talented men of color are represented in the nominations, but another British man portraying Prince Charles still came out on top. One of the reasons why shows become successful is the relationship between viewers and characters, and Page’s representation of the Duke was certainly successful in doing just that. While many overlook the show, categorizing it as another trend, Bridgerton is a period piece for modern society, with a diverse cast, romance, and elaborate scenery and costumes. Page ushers in a new era of period pieces along with the rest of the Bridgerton cast. The entire show was overlooked again in the Best Drama category.
Even though O’Connor is certainly talented, the role he acquired does not present any innovations or room for creativity. The Crown is a refined Royal Family TV adaptation, but the concept has been overused. The Crown continues the period piece tradition of fussy costumes and unrelatable characters. In terms of Best Actress in a Drama Series, Emma Corrin as Princess Diana made an incredible impact on pop culture, reviving interest in the figure. The selection of Olivia Coleman is another example of traditionalism in the Academy. Coleman plays Queen Elizabeth II, who is a slightly more stereotypical female character, and Coleman sought no innovation in her role.
The Academy also has a habit of selecting the same show year after year for the same award. This year, The Crown took home eleven awards, while Game of Thrones has acquired over twenty awards during its run. The Academy clearly has favorites, with The Crown being one of them. Therefore, to uncover the truth, one must discover the motives behind their decision-making and ensure that voters are truly engaged in the content that they are watching, rather than just doing so passively and voting on the one show they truly watched. Additionally, creativity, innovation, and diversity should be more celebrated, along with the actors who are trailblazers in those roles.