The best and worst moments of the 2019 Emmys


The 71st Annual Emmy Awards were historic for a number of reasons, some remarkable (Billy Porter!) and some just facts (no host? Okay then). 

As with every year’s ceremony, the three-hour telecast (which didn’t run over?!) was filled with highs and lows, but dare we say... more highs?

Here’s our list of the best and worst moments of the 2019 Emmys.

Best: The Fleabag-ening

"I find acting really hard and really painful."

"I find acting really hard and really painful."

Image: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

It takes a singular comedy series to de-throne Veep after its years of sweeping the Emmys, and luckily Fleabag Season 2’s winning streak in the comedy categories was entirely earned, because it is just that. From Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s equally hilarious and cheeky win for writing to her truly gobsmacked response to her second statue for acting, to Harry Bradbeer’s win for direction and then the big win for in Outstanding Comedy Series..Fleabag Season 2 deserves every accolade it gets forever. Read more...

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The royal family is historically a white institution. And so when Markle, a biracial woman, became a member, some heralded it as “progress.” But in late 2016, the same year it was announced she and Prince Harry were dating, the prince put out a statement condemning the “wave of abuse and harassment” Markle had already been subjected to. That included “the racial undertones of comment pieces” and “the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.” Three years later, Markle talked about the difficulty of dealing with tabloid coverage more broadly, saying it had been “hard,” and that adopting “this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip” was difficult. For example, the press has talked about her “exotic DNA”; described her as “(almost) straight outta Compton”; attacked her for the very things that Kate Middleton, Prince William’s white wife, has been praised for; and compared the couple’s son to a chimpanzee. 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One poll suggested a significant proportion of people thought it was Markle’s decision, not one made jointly or by Prince Harry. We don’t know, and might never discover, all the ins and outs of what prompted their departure from their frontline “duties.” But in this telling, Prince Harry’s previous admission that he didn’t want to be a “traditional royal” disappears, and all the power, responsibility, and blame seems to lie with Markle. Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty ImagesAFP via Getty Images Front-page headlines on the news that the Sussexes plan to step back as “senior” members of the royal family, on January 9, 2020. This was best encapsulated when one radio host launched into a tirade against her post-announcement. Although he’d never met Markle, he admitted, he thought her “awful, woke, weak, manipulative, spoilt and irritating…I look at her and I think, ‘I don’t think I would like you in real life.’” Black British rapper Stormzy pinpointed in a characteristically salient way why someone would have this kind of unencumbered hatred for a person they’ve never met and who, for the most part, has done little that can really be considered offensive: “she’s just black.” So much of the reaction to Markle and the couple’s decision reads as a belief that she should be grateful for what she gets. That women of color — in particular black women — should know their place. Because really, so much of the comment around the Harry and Meghan saga isn’t about them at all. It’s about how poorly racism is understood, and how even beginning to grapple with it is deprioritized and ignored. This lack of interest in combating, or even challenging, racism has obvious political implications. The UK’s current prime minister, Boris Johnson, has compared Muslim women wearing burqas to letterboxes and described black people as “picanninies” with “watermelon smiles.” Diane Abbott, the UK’s first black woman MP, receives more abuse than any other politician in the UK. And in the wake of the referendum vote on the UK leaving the European Union, there was a spike in hate crimes. These forms of aggression don’t even get us to the insidious structural racism that produces material inequality, which risks being overlooked in all this talk of the royals. Studies have shown that to get a job interview, people with African- or Asian-sounding surnames have to send in twice as many CVs as those with white British-sounding surnames — even where they have the same qualifications. While homelessness has risen across the UK over the past 10 years, ethnic minorities have been disproportionately impacted. 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(Cynthia Erivo, the only Oscar-nominated actor of color this year, stars in HBO’s adaptation of King’s The Outsider and offered an implicit critique of the author’s tweets when asked about them on Wednesday.). For those who have followed the industry’s responses to widespread calls for greater diversity, especially since the #OscarsSoWhite campaign began five years ago, cycles like this are a familiar part of the awards season. After a Golden Globes that featured many presenters of color but a primarily white set of winners, this year’s Oscar and BAFTA Awards nominations didn’t deviate much from a well-worn script either. The Academy’s perceived snubs—of actors such as Us’s Lupita Nyong’o and Hustlers’ Jennifer Lopez, along with directors such as Little Women’s Greta Gerwig and The Farewell’s Lulu Wang—are as unfortunate as they are predictable. And comments like King’s reveal a major reason why: “Diversity” is too often discussed as something separate from, or even in conflict with, artistic virtue. It is treated as an abstract concept meant to materialize without industry gatekeepers and Oscar voters, such as King, challenging their own possibly narrow views and instituting different practices. Put more plainly, the lack of representation is regularly talked about as a problem, but one for someone else to solve and for other institutions to address.Consider, for example, the equivocal responses that prominent white filmmakers have given throughout the years when asked about the glaring demographics of their industry—and of their own works. 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In 2016, the second in a row that saw the Academy nominate only white actors, the director Quentin Tarantino answered a question about the Hateful Eight actor Samuel L. Jackson not receiving a nomination with a mealy-mouthed assessment. “My only guess, frankly, is that [voters] take him for granted. That would be my only guess," Tarantino said, later adding that his own films actually represented racial progress within the Western genre. Tarantino’s latest movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which isn’t a Western, has been nominated for 10 Oscars this year and was criticized for casting an all-white ensemble.Tim Burton, who directed Jackson in another racially homogenous film, compared concerns about all-white casts to the existence of genres created precisely because of Hollywood exclusion: “I remember back when I was a child watching The Brady Bunch and they started to get all politically correct. Like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black,” he said in a 2016 interview with Bustle. “I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies."So often, though, even Hollywood gatekeepers who’ve expressed a theoretical wish for a more inclusive entertainment landscape seem resigned to maintaining the status quo within their own field of influence. Martin Scorsese, who in 1993 wrote a letter to The New York Times arguing that “diversity guarantees our cultural survival,” rejected a question last year about the lack of prominent roles for women in his films. “That’s not even a valid point,” he said while promoting his latest, The Irishman, which received 10 Oscar nods. “It’s a question I’ve had for so many years. It is a waste of everybody’s time,” later adding that his films did include these sorts of roles “if a story calls for a female lead.” It’s a commonly raised point—that storytellers should put the needs of the story first—but one that often frames diversity as a chore, or in clinical terms rather than considering its narrative possibilities through an imaginative lens. “You don’t sit down and ... say, ‘I’m going to write a story that involves four black people, three Jews, and a dog,’—right?” Joel Coen said in 2016.There are, of course, ways to shift the Hollywood landscape without radically changing one’s own art, and many Hollywood heavyweights do use their cachet to open doors for others. But the seeming reluctance of men such as King, Tarantino, and Burton to conceive of themselves as figures of influence obscures their responsibility to the broader entertainment community. Despite often being arbiters of both financial resources and soft power, these artists continue to place industry-wide concerns at arm’s length. As my colleague David Sims wrote, “Academy members themselves have the power to expand what kinds of movies are considered Oscar contenders. One step would be to reject the preemptive hand-waving doled out to so many acclaimed films, many of them artsier or smaller-scale, that supposedly will never play with Oscar voters for little reason other than tradition.” Until Oscar voters acknowledge—and reconfigure—their circumscribed visions of artistry, the rest of Hollywood (and the moviegoing public) will be subject to the same wearying cycles.
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