Opinion

Award shows provide oversimplified solutions to systemic biases

The Emmys are just around the corner, and the internet is abuzz with speculation. Is “Game of Thrones” going to make a clean sweep with its record-setting 23 nominations? More importantly, will Queen Cersei – long may she reign – be crowned winner of the battle for Best Drama Supporting Actress?

There’s also the question of whether Jimmy Kimmel will be able to top Chris Rock’s DVR-worthy hosting of this year’s Oscars. Rock highlighted the media’s lack of diversity, and that controversy has yet to subside. The somewhat homogeneous landscape of the awards stage pervades, tainting the polished hue of the golden Emmy.

Part of what made Rock’s performance so brilliant was his approach – he made a bold statement about a hot-button issue in the way in which only comedians can. His joking social commentary and biting wit set the show apart from tedious, excessive politicizing.

Kimmel, on the other hand, doesn’t face such an uncomfortable situation heading into the Emmys. People are rolling out the red carpet for the #EmmysSoDiverse due to its drastically more inclusive roster.

“Of 98 nominees in 16 categories, 21 are actors of color, including Aziz Ansari of ‘Master of None,’ Taraji P. Henson for ‘Empire,’ Kerry Washington in ‘Confirmation’ and Cuba Gooding Jr. from ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson,’” according to E! News.

This suggests that Hollywood can surmount systemic racism to recognize diverse talent. Marginalized groups are still, however, pushing for recognition from a broader audience. After all, past winners “Orange Is the New Black” and “Transparent” exemplify the recent inclusion of different sexual orientations and gender identities in the American narrative.

When award shows  attempt to celebrate diversity, they often don’t go far enough. Consider specialized shows like the NAACP Image Awards and Alma Awards. They can give off the false impression that society has fully overcome its failure to represent minorities in film and television. Larger strides must be taken.

Despite the focus on diversity in Hollywood, awards are still influenced by other biases. The Emmys favor big studio shows and movies. The proof lies in the fact that judging body accepts free DVDs and advanced screening passes instead of bothering to venture out to find lesser-known, but often more ground-breaking, material.

Without attempting to diversify the nominated shows and movies and the types of roles available, the Emmys mission to “foster and reward excellence in visual media … set standards of creativity, innovation and integrity and honor through peer recognition” strikes us as incomplete.

Raising awareness of  industry biases shouldn’t detract from entertaining the audience or celebrating the art. It is noble to throw a little social activism into the mix of the Emmys glitz, so long as it’s done in a lighthearted way. However, award shows run the risk of falling into the same trap as late-night talk shows (John Oliver and Stephen Colbert, looking at you) that try to influence politics do: overestimating the impact of their platform on society.

Whoopi Goldberg phrased it best when she de-emphasized the role of award nominations.

“The issue is that there aren’t enough movies with diverse casts getting financed and made,” Goldberg said.

In order to foster meaningful change that will be reflected in future award shows, these advancements need to occur.

Adrianne Babun-Chavarria is a senior majoring in biology and English.

September 14, 2016

Reporters

Adrianne Babun-Chavarria


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

View photos as Miami Hurricanes Coach Jim Morris ends 41-year career on Saturday, May 19, 2018, at M ...

The sullen, charcoal sky opened with a vengeance Saturday afternoon at Mark Light Field in Coral Gab ...

Hurricanes football aficionados: How does another College GameDay at the University of Miami campus ...

Get out your calendars once again, UM football fans. The Atlantic Coast Conference has announced the ...

Lonnie Walker IV, so eager to begin his professional basketball career that he left the University o ...

A snapshot guide to the start of summer in and around UM. ...

Former investment banker Charmel Maynard leads UM’s investments and treasury functions. ...

Over his more than two decades at the U, the dean of students from 1976-1989 always put students fir ...

The final Sea Secrets lecture at the Rosenstiel School examines the biofluorescence of marine organi ...

Maintenance mechanic Milton Davis has kept UM housing humming for decades. ...

No. 7 seed Miami opens its run at the 2018 ACC Baseball Championship Tuesday, May 22 against No. 11 ...

After 25 years, head coach Jim Morris had just one request for the pregame festivities for his final ...

The Miami Hurricanes will kick off their 2018 home schedule at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Sept. ...

Check out over 60 of the top pictures from the Miami women's tennis team's matchup with to ...

In honor of Jim Morris' final regular season game as head coach at Miami on Saturday, May 19, t ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.