How The Emmys Failed To Honor TV's Diverse Year

Photo: Courtesy of Fox.
At this year’s Golden Globes, Gina Rodriguez, accepting her trophy for best actress in a comedy TV series, said: “This award is so much more than myself. It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.”

Fast-forward to this morning, when this year’s Emmy nominations were announced and Rodriguez’s show Jane The Virgin — which has been hailed as groundbreaking for its representation of Latinos — was nearly shut out all together. Its one and only nomination was for its deserving narrator, Anthony Mendez.

Leading up to the nominations, Vulture wondered, “Will TV’s year of diversity be reflected in the nominations?” Writer Joe Adalian listed Jane The Virgin, Empire, Black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat, and How To Get Away With Murder as examples of how, “while the 2014 – '15 season didn’t suddenly turn prime-time TV into a mirror of our nation’s diversity, strides were made — and many of the most diverse shows introduced last year happened to be really good (or at least really compelling).”

The answer was: sort of.

For instance, while Taraji P. Henson was nominated for her ferocious performance as Cookie Lyon on Empire, the wildly successful show was largely ignored.

In the acting categories, there are a number of instances of increased diversity among acting nominees, which certainly gives the Emmys a leg up on this year’s Oscars. Henson and Viola Davis were nominated for lead actress in a drama for their roles on Empire and How To Get Away With Murder. Last year, Kerry Washington was the only person of color nominated in that category.

Meanwhile, Anthony Anderson of Black-ish joined returning nominee Don Cheadle of House of Lies in the lead actor in a comedy category. The comedy supporting actor category featured Andre Braugher, for Brooklyn Nine-Nine (he was also nominated last year), Keegan-Michael Key for Key & Peele (but oddly, not Jordan Peele), and Tituss Burgess for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The supporting actress in a limited series or movie category included three Black women: Regina King for American Crime, Angela Bassett for American Horror Story: Freak Show, and Mo’Nique for Bessie. In total there were 19 people of color nominated in the acting categories this year, up from 11 last year.

And, yet, those successes are undercut by the fact that shows with predominantly non-white casts made little headway. Meanwhile, the Academy continued its tradition of nominating shows long past their prime (see: Modern Family and Downton Abbey, which got six and eight nods, respectively).

That’s not to say that the Emmys ignored everything in the zeitgeist. Transparent, about a parent coming out as transgender to her family, is one of the year’s most critically lauded shows and was nominated for 11 awards, more than any other comedy. Inside Amy Schumer, hailed almost universally for its cutting-edge take on feminism, came away with seven nominations, including, hilariously, a nomination for Paul Giamatti in the 12 Angry Men sketch. One of the three nominations that Amy Schumer racked up personally was for directing that sketch.

Neither Transparent nor Inside Amy Schumer, however, focus on people of color. Not to mention, of the 14 series up for best comedy and drama, only Orange Is The New Black features a truly diverse cast.

The Emmys are only willing to go so far.

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