The politics at this year’s Emmy Awards reflected a year of chaos and consternation: a polarizing election, the police brutality protests and, most recently, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The most frequent message from winners, though, was a simple plea to just get out and vote.
“For any of you who have not registered to vote, please do so, and then go out and vote, because that is the only way we are going to have some love and acceptance out there,” said Daniel Levy, accepting the seventh award that Schitt’s Creek won during the evening. “I’m so sorry for making this political, but I had to.”
The Emmycast itself was like no other because of COVID-19, with nominees forced to stay at home or with friends and accept their wins with Zoom-like remotes. Gone from the ceremony was audience laughs and applause, making for acceptance speeches that came across as far more intimate and urgent.
One winner, Jesse Armstrong, accepting the best drama award for Succession, went the furthest in calling out leaders for failures during the coronavirus crisis, as he used his acceptance speech to give a few “un-thank yous.”
“To President Trump, for his crummy and uncoordinated response [to COVID-19],” he said. “Un thank you to Boris Johnson and his government for doing the same in my country. Un thank you to the nationalist and quasi nationalist governments in the world doing sort of the opposite of what we need right now. Un thank you to the media moguls who do so much to keep them in power.”
Host Jimmy Kimmel was just as biting in some of his quips, as when he noted the lack of people at the ceremony at the Staples Center.
“Of course we don’t have an audience. This isn’t a MAGA rally. It’s the Emmys,” he quipped.
Other moments referenced the racial justice movement, one that has triggered renewed calls for greater diversity and representation in Hollywood and other industries.
Sterling K. Brown wore a BLM shirt, Uzo Aduba wore a Breonna Taylor one. Anthony Anderson began a chant of “Black Lives Matter,” then, when Kimmel joined in, said, “Say it so that Mike Pence can hear it: Black Lives Matter.”
Later in the show, Kimmel paid tribute to Ginsburg, a testament to her impact as a cultural figure, while another winner, Regina King, urged people to vote and said, “Rest in power, RBG.”
Other winners in the evening had a similar straightforward message, perhaps mindful that, four years into Trump’s term, the kind of scathing remarks about his presidency, ala Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes or Robert De Niro at the Tonys, are perhaps just preaching to the choir.
Instead, in such a divisive, tragic year, some winners made a point of sounding a notes of hope. “Vote for love and compassion and kindness,’ said Mark Ruffalo, winning for I Know This Much Is True. Tyler Perry, accepting the Governor’s Award, gave an inspirational speech that touched on his grandmother’s quilt and “diversity at its best.”
“A special note to the viewer,” said RuPaul, winning for RuPaul’s Drag Race. “Kiddo, I know how you feel right now. Just know that you are loved, and don’t give up on love. Believe in love and the power of love, OK?”