Rico Rodriguez of Modern Family: A rare Latino on TV, and at the Emmy Awards
Rico Rodriguez of Modern Family: A rare Latino on TV, and at the Emmy Awards
Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images

Why Were Latinos Largely Left Out of the Emmy Awards?

If Latinos were dissed by Hollywood any worse than they already are, they'd only be parking cars, working in craft services and guarding parking lots. Well, that's almost the case. USC's annual "Inequality in Popular Films" report in August found that Latinos captured just 3.1 percent of big-screen roles. UCLA’s last “Hollywood Diversity Report” found that Latinos face the least representation of any minority in the industry: They accounted for 5 percent of broadcast TV’s scripted roles. About one out of every two people in Los Angeles County, home of the film and television industry, is Latino.

During the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards telecast on Sunday, Hollywood recognized its top TV talent while having a field day bashing President Trump. But POTUS' favorite targets since the day he launched his campaign for the White House in 2015, people of Latino descent, were largely left out of the affair at Microsoft Theater downtown. This led the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which has paid particular attention to TV's exclusion of Latinos over the years, to issue a statement this week calling out the event for "failing to recognize Latino talent."

"It was as if Latinos do not exist, so you don't need to consider them," says NHMC CEO Alex Nogales.

The nonprofit organization did a count of "the top 100 acting nominations": Two Latinos were nominated and one won. It also counted 74 white nominees (with 11 wins), 20 African-American nominees (with three wins) and four Asian-American or Pacific Islander nominees (with one win). (There were at least two Latino presenters, Alexis Bledel and Gina Rodriguez.) "Proportionally speaking, we're at the bottom of the list," Nogales says.

Why were Latinos largely left out? We reached out to the Television Academy but received no response.

Earlier this week, racial-justice group Color of Change praised the Emmy Awards for recognizing African-Americans in Hollywood, including writer Lena Waithe and director-actor Donald Glover, who were first-time black winners in their respective categories. However, after we pointed out the lack of Latinos at the event, the group's director, Rashad Robinson, leveled some fresh criticism at the Television Academy.

"There is still much work to be done to make television both inclusive and representative, in front of the camera and behind the scenes," he said via email. "In particular, Asian and Latino writers, directors and actors continue to be whitewashed on the Emmys stage."

Screenwriter Rick Najera, who directs CBS' annual Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase, says that, with a president who has demonized Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists and who has put an end to protections for undocumented immigrants who came here as children, the Emmy Awards needed to put Latinos front-and-center more than ever.

"We're the national scapegoat," he says. "It has been that way from the beginning. That's why media representation is so important. People say #OscarsSoWhite. It should be #EmmysSoWhite."

Najera says he enjoyed the Emmys' criticism of Trump. Host Stephen Colbert said Sunday night that the president has been a singular influence on pop culture: "All the late-night shows, obviously. House of Cards, the new season of American Horror Story, and, of course, next year’s Latin Grammys hosted by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Muy caliente."

But the jokes become hollow when Latinos are largely absent, Najera argues: Acting as if half the local population exists only to do service work undermines the moral authority of folks who otherwise proclaim to be liberal sympathizers.

"It is a sin of omission," he says. "It's easy to say you're progressive. But Hollywood fails when it comes to actions. The Emmy Awards are just a tip of the iceberg in Hollywood."

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