Emmys 2021 Recap: Winners, Big Moments and Controversy 

The Emmy Awards are a hot topic every year, and 2021’s show was no different. Between sweeping wins, memorable speeches and ever-present controversies, there’s plenty to keep screen junkies and critics alike talking for weeks to come. 

Comedian and actor Cedric the Entertainer hosted the awards, which aired live from the Microsoft Theater in L.A. on Sept. 19. This year’s Emmys was held in-person, as opposed to 2020’s virtual show, though according to an announcement those in attendance included only ”a limited audience of nominees and their guests.” 

“After so much social distancing, seeing well-dressed, beautiful people laugh at each other’s jokes feels like a balm, especially when they seem to really like working together,” Vanity Fair said in their review of the show. 

Winners and Speeches 

“The Crown” and “The Queen’s Gambit” were the big winners of the 73 Emmy Awards, tying at first place with 11 trophies each. “The Crown” won outstanding drama series, lead actor (Josh O’Connor) and lead actress (Olivia Colman) in drama and lead supporting actor (Tobias Menzies) and actress (Gillian Anderson) in drama. “The Queen’s Gambit” took home outstanding limited series and the outstanding lead actress (Anna Taylor-Joy), supporting actor (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and supporting actress (Moses Ingram) awards for the same category. 

“Saturday Night Live” won eight Emmys, followed closely by “The Mandalorian” and “Ted Lasso” with seven each. 

“Ted Lasso” snagged outstanding comedy series. Hannah Waddingham won her first Emmy, lead actress in a comedy, for her performance in the series and gave a shoutout to her costar Jason Sudeikis and her parents in her acceptance speech. The actress was visibly ecstatic over her win, and that excitement bled through in what is being hailed as one of the most memorable speeches of the night.  

“I’m not responsible for anything that falls out of my face in the next 30 seconds,” Waddingham said. “To my parents who I nearly lost during the filming of this season, I’m so glad you’re here to see this moment.” 

Michaela Coel took home the Emmy for writing for a limited series for her work on the British series, “May I Destroy You.” In her speech, Coel dedicated the story, which is centered around themes of sexual assault, to those who have survived sexual assault. 

Coel also offered advice to her fellow writers. “Write the tale that scares you, that makes you feel uncertain, that is uncomfortable. I dare you,” Coel said. “In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us determine how we feel about ourselves… do not be afraid to disappear, from it, from us, for a while and see what comes to you in the silence.” 

Actor, dancer and producer Debbie Allen received the 2021 Governor’s Award. The 71-year-old “Grey’s Anatomy” star delivered an emotional speech after a video recapping her life and extensive career played. 

“Let this moment resonate with women across the world, across this country and across the world,” Allen said. “Let them know. And also with young people… they’re inheriting the world that we leave them. It is time for you to claim your power, claim your voice, say your song, tell your stories. It will make us a better place. Your turn.” 

Debates over Diversity 

The Emmys—and any other award show on its level of renown—is no stranger to controversy, and this year was no different. Despite a record show of diversity in the pool of nominees—49 people of color were in the running—no black, Latino or Asian actor won an acting award. Because of this, critics have called out the Awards for being racially discriminatory. 

“Attempting to increase diversity by having POC as host and 90% of the presenters but only giving awards to white folks isn’t a great look for the #Emmys,” a critic wrote on Twitter, where the hashtag #EmmysSoWhite” quickly began trending. “The old ‘let’s try to fix our diversity problem without challenging the power structure’ trick. 

The people of color who did take home awards were Michaela Coel and RuPaul, who won outstanding competition program. 

The late Michael K. Williams was nominated for his performance on “Lovecraft Country” for best supporting actor in a drama series and was a favorite for the honor, but the award went to Tobias Menzies, who was not present for the ceremony. A similar situation happened at last year’s show when no-show Anthony Hopkins won an award over the late favorite Chadwick Boseman. 

The controversy has opened up discussion over the Emmys’ voting protocols and standards. 

“#Emmys do this every year: Nominate a diverse selection of our faves only to give [awards] to the same white actors and/or stories,” another critic wrote on Twitter. “Middle-aged white folks in conflict or British period pieces will win over nuanced, multi-dimensional plots involving characters of color.” 

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