In the early 1960s, Sunday night’s then must-see TV used to proclaim confidently: “The world is a carousel of color.” It only took 50-plus years for the medium—in the form of another Sunday-night telecast—to really start delivering on that promise.
Emmys host Jimmy Kimmel joked at the beginning of the night that the only thing Hollywood values more than diversity is patting itself on the back for how much it values diversity.
It was a good joke, but the Emmys proceeded to counterpunch that punch line by showing that TV actually gets it, as demonstrated by the raft of next-day stories celebrating that diversity.
The award for the Master of None episode “Parents” was for a story celebrating immigrants. A political message could be read into the win, but fortunately the show has already won a Peabody, so it’s safe to conclude that it won for its great writing.
Then there was Jeffrey Tambor’s win for Transparent; a proud moment to be sure, but the actor provided a needed governor on the diversity self-celebration by suggesting he would be OK if he were the last non-transgender actor playing such a role on TV.
The awards for best lead actor and supporting actor in a miniseries went to African-Americans, as did the award for best sketch variety show—to the incomparable Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key—while Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek took home best actor in a drama for Mr. Robot.
The reason diverse actors and writers and show creators are winning is that they are getting the chance to be nominated—which means they are being hired—and then the chance to shine in a spotlight too long pointed in only one direction.
There is definitely a message here, which is that recognizing the value in people, no matter where they came from or what they look like, and welcoming their contributions, is what makes television, and this country, great.