Emmy Awards Recap: 11 Things Everyone is Talking About
09.18.17

Donald Trump jokes, satire and backhanded compliments took center stage again at the 69th Annual Emmy Awards. From award speeches to host Stephen Colbert’s hilarious opening monologue, (almost) everyone had something clever to say. The more memorable moments, though, were the stories of women and people of color getting their overdue recognition: Atlanta won two awards, Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale won eight awards, and the LGBTQ stories on both Black Mirror and Master of None won big. Now, I’m not saying I forgive the Emmys for excluding The Leftovers from the nominations, but there were some really really good moments (and one very bad one). Here were the 11 most memorable things that happened.

Sean Spicer made an appearance.

Stephen Colbert’s opening monologue was political and incredible. It was a musical with on-the-nose cameos from The Americans co-stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (“The Americans has hotter spies than the Russian inquiry. Even treason’s better on TV.”), Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Imagine if your president was not beloved by Nazis.”), and a reference to The Handmaid’s Tale (“Look on the bright side, handmaids, at least your healthcare’s free.). Colbert pointed the finger at the Emmys too, saying, “I tell you this: If he had won an Emmy, I bet he wouldn’t have run for president. So in a way, this is all your fault.”

But then, things got weird. After declaring that Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote, Colbert brought out…former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer as the closing joke to his monologue. It felt gross, especially considering that for the past six months Spicer was an actual peddler of fake news. Too soon, Colbert. Too soon. But also, maybe never?

Kate McKinnon and Alec Baldwin gave thanks to their respective IRL characters.

Last November, Kate McKinnon and Alec Baldwin gave us the only presidential debates we felt comfortable laughing at by portraying Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live. Last night, McKinnon and Baldwin both won Emmys for their spot-on performances. McKinnon thanked Hillary Clinton for her grace (although she was abruptly cut-off) and Baldwin trolled Trump, “At long last, Mr. President, here is your Emmy.”

The only Donald I acknowledge, Donald Glover, had a night of firsts.

It was a huge night for Atlanta star, creator, director and all-around perfect human Donald Glover. He took home two Emmys, the first for Outstanding Director for a Comedy Series, and the second for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. There were a few things that made this night epic for both him and me: 1.) He became the first black director to win. 2.) His award was presented by the legendary Dave Chappelle. 3.) He’s the first black actor to win in that category in 32 years. 4.) His Prince-esque purple tuxedo was iconic. 5.) His backhanded compliment to Trump was absolutely necessary: “I want to thank Trump for making black people number one on the most-oppressed list. He’s the reason I’m probably up here.”

Atlanta co-star Lakeith Stanfield is you and me.

Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage

In his all-black tuxedo with a bow tie and jacquard printed blazer, Lakeith Stanfield was one of the best dressed men of the night. But it was when he took a seat on the red carpet that he became one of the best people of the night. I’m unsure if it was because his legs were tired (posing for photos is exhausting) or he wanted to be captured from a fresh camera angle; either way, I can relate. Lakeith Stanfield, let’s be friends?

Lena Waithe wins her first Emmy.

Lena Waithe and Aziz Ansari walked on the Emmys stage to a standing ovation and teary eyes because the “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None won for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series. It centered on the story of the character Denise and her challenges of coming out to her family over a series of Thanksgiving dinners. It was one of the best moments on television this year. It told the story of not only a black woman, but a black queer woman, which is still a rare voice to take center stage on television today. Plus, the writing was incredible.

Waithe won her first Emmy and made history in the same night, becoming the first black woman to win in Comedy Writing category (I’m literally in tears as I write this). Her heartfelt speech was one of the most memorable moments of the night as well: “And last, but certainly not least, my LGBQTIA family. I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different, those are our superpowers. Every day, when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape, and go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.”

Another LGBTQ-centered story takes home an award.

Black Mirror’s “San Junipero” episode starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis was another story that put LGBTQ voices at the center. It was beautiful love story between two queer women that stood out against the usually cynical series. It finally got its overdue recognition when the writer and Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker won an award (Outstanding Television Movie) for it last night. I hope this and Master of None’s wins serve as a message that queer women’s stories and voices not only matter and are important, but are award-worthy, too.

Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale win big.

The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies both tied for the second most awards (eight), missing SNL by two Emmys (it won 10). It’s not just that these shows were about women, it’s that they were stories with beautifully complex and authentic characters, that shone a light on sexism, misogyny, domestic violence and the strength of women.

Elisabeth Moss, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern spoke out about gender inequality in Hollywood during their speeches. Dern spoke about how grateful she was to get to work with a wonderful group of women because, in her 39 years of acting, she’s “maybe worked with 12 women.”

During the acceptance of the Best Limited Series award, Kidman said: “This is a friendship that then created opportunities. It created opportunities out of a frustration, because we weren’t getting offered great roles. So now, more great roles for women, please.” Moss said backstage that, although she was happy for winning big at the Emmys, “there is still a lot of progress to be made” when it comes to women in Hollywood.

(Also, Big Little Lies may have won big, but this was really a chance to witness/cry over Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Nicole Kidman’s adorable friendship.)

Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda reunite.

All I have to say is: Name a more iconic trio. Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, who all starred in the 1980s comedy 9 to 5 together, came on stage to look fabulous and also call out Donald Trump. There were no jokes or satire; they came to say it straight. “Back in 1980, in that movie, we refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” said Fonda. “And in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” finished Tomlin.

(Also, Jane Fonda’s blonde weave ponytail came to turn heads. And can we talk about her statement necklace that also doubled as back jewelry? More Jane Fonda, please!)

Tracee Ellis Ross and Sarah Paulson came to party.

Photos via Getty Images

Ross and Paulson came dressed (in Chanel and Carolina Herrera, respectively) to prove that “you look like a disco ball” is the absolute, ultimate compliment. Favorite Emmy looks.

Oprah Winfrey was in the front row.

I’m just going to say this: I think the Emmys were actually good this year because Oprah Winfrey was in the front row, and who really wants to piss off Oprah a.k.a. mom a.k.a. our future president a.k.a. forever legend? Not me, not Stephen Colbert and certainly not CBS, seeing as Oprah will join the network as a 60 Minutes contributor this fall. Also, this was the best tweet about Oprah presenting the award for Best Drama to The Handmaid’s Tale. Favorite it:

Issa Rae becomes a meme.

A reporter on the red carpet asked Insecure creator and star Issa Rae who she was rooting for in the Emmys and her response was “I’m rooting for everybody black.” It is now my forever mood, top five meme and go-to response for literally everything and anything.

What were your favorite moments?

Tahirah Hairston is a writer living in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter @tahairyy and Instagram @tahairy.

Feature photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

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