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Published on September 24th, 2013 | by Nathaniel

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Race and the Emmys: Should Kerry Have Won?

KerryWashington3

There’s something about an awards show that catalyzes everyone’s inner critic. Everyone from your neighborhood soccer mom to your lemonade-sipping, porch-stooping grandpa has an opinion. And this year was no different.

On September 22nd, the Primetime Emmys aired their 65th Broadcast and if you weren’t watching the Bears serve it to the Steelers in a 40-23 victory, you saw everyone hold their breath when Homeland’s Claire Danes was called to accept her second Emmy. You see, this year marked the first time in seventeen years that an African American actress had been nominated for the much contended Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. To give you the bacon with the grease and a side of hash, an African American female hasn’t been the primary lead for a network TV show since 1974’s short-lived “Get Christie Love!” starring Teresa Graves. And many believed 2013 would be the defining moment when equality would rain down and the perilous manacles of underappreciated recognition for obvious talent would be severed… Too much?

But truth be told, the moral compass of Scandal’s Olivia Pope, played by Washington, has left some on the fence. A melodramatic soap depicting a black woman in power succumbing to the desire of the unfaithful President of the United States, further stigmatizing black women as objects of “Massa’s affection”? Say it with me, “Har-lot!” Or a modern-age depiction of the complexities and vulnerabilities in finding authentic love? New-age romantic? Regardless of how you feel about the show’s content, Washington’s talent and hard work is undeniable. Thus the reason so many were optimistic about her chances of taking home an Emmy…  And when she didn’t, Twitter imploded with some claiming it was justified and others going on “attack-mode” claiming “snub-ation” and racism to the 10th:

Co-star, Columbus Short:

“Robbed. Robbed I tell you. ROBBED. @KerryWashington is without question the MOST OUTSTANDING. We’ll see you next year Emmys. @ScandalABC”

Yvette Nicole Brown:

“Welp, #Gladiators…it’s an honor just to be nominated, right? Amiright? *cough @KerryWashington was robbed cough.” #Emmys

Other tweets:

Zeba Blay- “WHAT? SO YOU’LL LET KERRY GO ON STAGE TALKING BOUT THANK YOU EMMYS FOR RECOGNIZING DIVERSITY AND THEN LET THIS BEIGE OATMEAL WIN?”

Jessica Danielle- “She’s a horrible actress period RT @harlemchik: I know black folks are rooting for Kerry but her performance in Scandal ain’t all that.”

So here it is… as an actor, I can tell you at a certain level, judging performances solely for the recognition of an award is extremely arbitrary and beyond subjective. An actor serves as an interpreter, a conduit in the story-telling process of a writer. And every story is different. Every performance is different. You don’t see the back-story an actor builds in his or her mind, the subtleties of losing yourself in character, or the emotion behind a breathless stare. What you do see is only the extrinsic- the cinematography, the set-design, the way the editor cuts the scenes so the suspense builds from a ringing telephone to a ransomed victim. Your response to a movie or to a TV show, whether conscious or not, is based off of your fears, your experiences, and your dreams.

In my previous post, “Does an Oscar Equal Validation?”, I talked about the conglomerate who votes for the Oscars. A similar collective votes for the Emmys. Keep in mind, these are people, people with the same unconscious and conscious response to film and TV you and I have.

Often times, in the African American community, we put on our “color-glasses” and look for an “adequate-enough” representation of ourselves in the media and at awards shows. I think this comes from a deeper need to receive validation for our contributions to society, considering our devalued past. And don’t get me wrong, feeling appreciated and validated is a human-need. However, white, black, Latino, Asian, we can’t put the responsibility of recognizing self-worth onto an entity which can only see the extrinsic. Award or no award, Kerry Washington should be appreciated, because she is operating in her gifting. The same goes for you- when you operate in your gifting. Don’t allow the external to suggest your internal value.

Psalm 139:13-15 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”

 

Race and the Emmys… What are your thoughts?  Think Kerry should have won an Emmy? We’d love to hear them!

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