How the 2018 Emmys Proved Hollywood's Diversity Problem Still Isn't Solved

There's still much more to be done.

If the Emmys were hoping to "solve" Hollywood's diversity problem, it didn't do so Monday night -- and it became a running theme throughout the evening.

The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Saturday Night Live's Colin Jost and Michael Che, opened with an elaborate song-and-dance number, cheekily titled "We Solved It," where stars poked fun about the industry's call for inclusion in front of and behind the camera in response to Hollywood's ongoing diversity issue. 

Stars like Sterling K. Brown, Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson, Aidy Bryant, Tituss Burgess, Kristen Bell, RuPaul, Andy Samberg, Ricky Martin and John Legend sang and danced their way through the satirical number, which called out various discrepancies and long overdue moments, like Sandra Oh's history-making Emmy nomination as the first Asian woman to be recognized in a lead acting category ever. Oh joked from her seat during the performance that it was "an honor just to be Asian." "There were none. Now there's one. And so we're done," quipped Thompson and McKinnon.

The performance also featured The One-of-Each Dancers, a tongue-in-cheek display of inclusiveness. 

Following the opening number, Jost and Che commented on the state of diversity in television in their opening monologue, acknowledging that it remains front of mind.

"Things are getting better but as we all know, TV has always had a diversity problem. Can you believe that they did 15 seasons of ER without one Filipino nurse? Have you been to a hospital?" Che said. "Even on a great show like Cheers. You're telling me they made a show about an all-white sports bar in 1980s Boston and not one black dude walked in, saw everybody and walked right out immediately?"

"There's even more diversity coming to TV. There's a Latino Magnum P.I. There's going to be a black Samantha in a reboot of Bewitched. But it's all going to get balanced out by an all-white reboot of Atlanta called 15 Miles Outside of Atlanta," Jost said. "And it focuses on white women who call the police on the cast of Atlanta," Che joked.

After Hollywood legend Betty White took the stage to a standing ovation for a special Emmy moment, presenter James Corden offered a witty zinger: "Let's get it trending: #EmmysSoWhite!" At that point in the telecast (about an hour in), all of the winners had been white. Regina King was the first non-white Emmy winner on the telecast, taking home the statuette for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie for Seven Seconds, more than an hour into the show. 

Later on in the telecast, Che introduced a pre-taped sketch, the "Reparation Emmys," which called out all the overlooked black comedians in the past several decades -- from Marla Gibbs and Jimmie Walker to Kadeem Hardison and Jaleel White -- "to right some of those wrongs." "You know [Bryan Cranston] only won because he's white? If he was black, he would probably be bagging groceries at Trader Joe's somewhere," a possible reference to former Cosby Show star Geoffrey Owens, who has since landed acting gigs on OWN's The Haves and Have Nots and a guest spot on CBS' NCIS: New Orleans.

While the Emmys focused much of its telecast on Hollywood's diversity problem during its three-hour ceremony, it was status quo for the most part, in comparison to the past three years. By the end of this year's telecast, only a handful of winners -- King; The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story's Darren Criss, who is half-Filipino; Westworld's Thandie Newton; and RuPaul's Drag Race's RuPaul -- were non-white. In comparison, the past two Primetime Emmy telecasts produced five winners who were people of color. 

There were many almosts, too. If Atlanta's Hiro Murai would have won the directing Emmy for the episode, “Teddy Perkins,” he would have become one of only a few Asian directors -- Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) and Tony To (Band of Brothers) -- to win a directing prize. If Atlanta's Stefani Robinson had won an Emmy for writing, she would have followed Lena Waithe as the second consecutive black woman to win for comedy. Donald Glover was also nominated in the same category.

Had Issa Rae or Tracee Ellis Ross won the top comedy acting prize, they would have become the first black actress to win the category in 37 years. And if This Is Us' Sterling K. Brown had won Lead Actor in a Drama Series, it would have marked his second consecutive win in the category -- and third straight win at the Emmys. 

Before the Emmys telecast began, Oh was realistic about her chances of making history as the first woman of Asian descent to win a lead actress Emmy -- and perhaps a larger observation about achieving progress overall, telling ET's Kevin Frazier on the carpet that progress takes time.

"Images are extremely important to culture, and being a part of that image making, I take a great responsibility, and I'm very grateful for my job to be able to do so. I hope that the wave continues and we see real change," she told ET on Monday. "But it's also [important] to be patient, you know what I mean? Because change is slow and I don't want people to ever give up on it."

"We can talk about how long it is, but change does take a long time, so the more that we talk about it, the more that we have opportunities to be in front of an audience, to say, 'Hey, we're a part of culture too,' I think just the better," Oh noted. 

For more on the Emmys, watch the video below.


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