What 'Master of None's' Emmy wins and losses say about the future of TV.

Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari gave a funny, important speech at the Emmys on Sept. 18, 2016.

The duo accepted the award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for their show, "Master of None" on Netflix — a big win for diverse television and the people behind the scenes who make it.

"There's 17 million Asian-Americans in this country, and there's 17 million Italian-Americans. They have 'The Godfather,' 'Goodfellas,' 'Rocky,' 'The Sopranos.' We got Long Duk Dong," Yang said, referencing the stereotypical character from "Sixteen Candles."


"We have a long way to go. But I know we can get there."

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

It was one of those speeches that should have gone about five minutes longer — not just because it was fantastic, but because Ansari totally got cut off by the music before he could give what was probably going to be an epic speech himself.

Watching Ansari get rushed off stage wasn't the only downer for his fans, though; soon after, we watched as he lost what would have been an enormous win in a different category.

Ansari was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. He would have been the first South Asian actor to ever win in a leading category.

But he lost. And that, of course, means there's still never been a South Asian actor to win a leading category. Ever!

Although Ansari's co-writing win was great, his acting nod loss (as well as his show's loss in Outstanding Comedy Series) touches on the state of diversity on television Yang alluded to earlier. Because while the Emmys may be more diverse than the Oscars, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Peabody.

Throughout the 68 Emmy award shows, no East Asian actor has ever won, either. (None!) 30 years have gone by since the last black woman was nominated for Lead Actress in a Comedy (shout-out to Tracee Ellis Ross for breaking the streak this year). And the acting slots for drama? They’ve been particularly behind on the diversity front — this year, just three of the 24 acting slots in those categories went to people of color. (These stats are all on top of the fact Ansari's loss was to quite the problematic category favorite.)

That's not OK to the "Master of None" star.

Ansari has a history of speaking out on the importance of diversity in Hollywood. And he walks the walk, too.

As a co-creator of "Master of None," he's helped develop one of the most diverse casts on TV right now. He gets why representation in our media matters.

Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

"I want to thank Netflix and Universal for believing in us and letting us tell our stories," he said back in May at the Peabody Awards. "I think they really seem to get what diversity really is. It's not, 'Hey, let's give this white protagonist a brown friend!' No. It's, 'Let's have a show where there's a token white guy.' And that's what [our show] is."

Things are looking up though. Despite Ansari’s loss tonight, diversity at the Emmys have gotten a lot better recently.

"I believe in us," Yang said in his Emmys speech. "It's just gonna take a lot of hard work."

That hard work is already paying off.

This year, 25% of the acting nominees were people of color — since the first Emmys, just 9% of the nominees in total have been actors of color — so 2016 was certainly a step up.

Even better, it’s probably not a one-off. The past few years have boasted relatively inclusive nomination slots, which means there’s every reason to be hopeful diversity at the Emmys isn’t just a fad.

Check out Upworthy’s timeline of trailblazers who’ve helped make the 2016 Emmys one of the most diverse ever.

Most Shared

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular

Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Wikipedia

Women in country music are fighting to be heard. Literally. A study found that between 2000 and 2018, the amount of country songs on the radio by women had fallen by 66%. In 2018, just 11.3% of country songs on the radio were by women. The statistics don't exist in a vacuum. There are misogynistic attitudes behind them. Anyone remember the time radio consultant Keith Hill compared country radio stations to a salad, saying male artists are the lettuce and women are "the tomatoes of our salad"...? Air play of female country artists fell from 19% of songs on the radio to 10.4% of songs on the radio in the three years after he said that.

Not everyone thinks that women are tomatoes. This year's CMA Awards celebrated women, and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles saw the opportunity to bring awareness to this issue and "inspire conversation about country music's need to play more women artists on radio and play listings," as Nettles put it on her Instagram. She did it in a uniquely feminine way – by making a fashion statement that also made a statement-statement.

Keep Reading Show less
popular