Actress Uzo Aduba wore a tee-shirt with the name “Breonna Taylor” imprinted on it, when she accepted an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie for Mrs America, and said, “Let’s change the world!” Breonna Taylor was a Black woman who was fatally shot in her own home in Kentucky by the police during a drugs’ investigation. Through the night on Sunday, in almost every acceptance speech, A-list TV stars sat in their homes and spoke of hope, for a better America, and, in turn, a better world.
In many ways, the 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards was nothing like ever before. Held in the middle of a global pandemic, host Jimmy Kimmel spoke to an empty auditorium. This while stars of the night sat in their homes with their families, friends and co-stars, and while fans across the world watched what became a night of passion, power and politics.
Recognising that COVID-19 is changing the world as we know it, the winners did their best to make the most of the night, not just to triumph in their own glory, but to speak of and condemn the injustices exacerbated under the leadership of Unites States President Donald Trump.
From slamming Trump’s move to downplay COVID-19, to highlighting police brutality and racial inequality (which reignited the Black Lives Matter movement), the winners emphasised the need for TV fans everywhere to register to vote in the upcoming presidential elections, trust the US?Postal Service and elect a government that promotes “inclusivity, love, compassion and kindness”.
Major stars such as Mark Ruffalo (who won for I Know This Much Is True), Regina King (Watchmen), Dan Levy (Schitt’s Creek), Jesse Armstrong (Succession) and Anthony Anderson (the star of Blackish, who presented an award), spoke with passion and conviction for their various causes. Ruffalo, whose speech made headlines, said, “And if we have privilege, we have to fight for those who are less fortunate and more vulnerable ~ and that’s what is great about America, our diversity… We are stronger together when we love each other and we respect each other’s diversity.”
King said of police brutality, “The cops still haven’t been held accountable. She represents just decades, hundreds of years of violence against Black bodies – Breonna Taylor does.”, while wearing a tee-shirt honouring Taylor. This was reminiscent of award-winning author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bestseller Between the world and me, in which he wrote of the fear of inhabiting a Black body in America.
Even comedian Kimmel acknowledged that in hosting the event, he had the platform to do more, and so, he did. In his opening monologue, he said, “Of course we don’t have an audience. This isn’t a MAGA (Make America Great Again) rally, it’s the Emmys.” This was a dig at the President, who held a rally even as the pandemic required people to take precautionary measures such as physical distancing. The US has so far seen over 6 million cases of COVID-19 and over 200,000 deaths.
What’s important about the political overtones that eclipsed the awards show was that these actors have been actively involved in various movements, both on and off screen: Be it the BLM movement, the climate crisis or COVID-19. Their passion-fuelled speeches only proved their resolve.
But make no mistake. This messaging isn’t new. Awards shows in the US have been overtly political, more so since Trump came to power in 2016. This includes the Emmys. They have questioned Government policies, highlighted gross inequalities in American society and stood up against oppressive structures that they claim destroy American culture. In this regard, it wasn’t surprising. But with rising intolerance, White supremacy and exclusionary right-wing populism on the rise, and with the US presidential election only months away, they pleaded with American viewers to make their vote count, to ensure that the November elections are a beacon to build an inclusive America.
But it is often observed that Trump thrives in an environment where the elite attack his presidency. He claims that the Hollywood A-listers are out of touch with “real America”. Therefore, the overt politicisation of the awards show can galvanise his campaign and his core base, which thrives in an “us vs them” narrative.
All in all, the awards show was a signal fire, an attempt for viewers everywhere to dispel Trump’s idea of America and vote him out. The elections in November will prove if the messaging of influential artists from the thespian community can effect change. Time will tell.
The views expressed are personal (Courtesy: HT)