The 2016 Emmys were woke.
The Primetime Emmy Awards, which honored the best of television over the past year on Sunday in Los Angeles, was a celebration of diversity in the entertainment industry and a sharp contrast to the film industry's Oscars, which was heavily criticized earlier this year for its mostly white nominees. From the Emmy presenters, to the people actually receiving the awards, women and people of color dominated television's biggest night.
The 2016 Oscars were marred by the #OscarsSoWhite controversy stemming from its entirely white acting nominees. The Emmys were already an improvement after announcing a diverse list of nominees in July, but went a step further and actually handed out the hardware to deserving people of color. Sterling K. Brown and Courtney B. Vance both won their categories for "The People vs. O.J. Simpson," Rami Malek won Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series, and Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key won Outstanding Comedy Variety Series for "Key & Peele.
The awards went to diverse faces behind the camera, as well. Aziz Ansari and Alan Wang won a writing Emmy for "Master of None" and two female directors, a rarity in TV and film, walked away with Emmys — Susana Bier for "The Night Manager" and Jill Solloway for "Transparent."
And there were multiple calls for Hollywood to give roles to transgender actors, from Jeffrey Tambor, who said he hoped to be the last cisgender actor to win an Emmy for portraying a trans character, to trans actress Laverne Cox.
At one point, Jimmy Kimmel, who hosted the ABC broadcast, joked that the Emmys had "too much diversity," but jokes aside, ABC was eager to show off the Emmys' rainbow vibe. A majority of the award show's presenters Sunday were either women or minorities, with stars such as Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Terrence Howard, Ansari, Constance Wu, Randall Park and Damon Wayans showing up to hand out the trophies. The inclusivity led to refreshing moments, like when Regina King of "American Crime" won the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie Emmy and shared a touching moment with fellow nominee Taraji P. Henson of "Empire" in the crowd before accepting the award from (a proudly pregnant) Kerry Washington of "Scandal."
To be sure, shows centered around female main characters or people of color still struggle to keep pace in the ratings and while the acting categories in 2016 were beacons of diversity, the winners were outliers in a TV landscape where white characters dominate the vast majority of speaking roles (even as the number of scripted TV shows inches over 400).
And the real problem is behind the camera. While 2016 was a landmark year for female directors at the Emmys, the relative absence of writers and directors of color is still a big concern and "below the line," a term meaning a show's crew, women and people of color continue to struggle to find jobs in the industry outside of productions like Solloway's and director Ava DuVernay's "Queen Sugar" that make a point to hire diverse crews.
"Master of None" creator Alan Wang noted the lack of diversity while accepting his Emmy Sunday. "Asian parents out there, just a couple of you, get your kids cameras instead of violins," Wang said.