Emmy nods reveal a lot about those we put on thrones

Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Fantasy collided with reality when the nominations for the 71st Emmy Awards were announced Tuesday: The Television Academy overwhelming chose to fly with dragons and tackle real-world racism, all in the same election cycle.

The final season of "Game of Thrones" -- by far its weakest -- landed 32 nominations, the most ever for a drama series in a single season. But a new crop of nominees suggests that the industry is also looking beyond Westeros and toward a place called Earth.

Netflix's powerful limited series "When They See Us" landed a surprising 16 nominations, an astounding feat for a hard-hitting, often painful docudrama about the wrongful conviction of the Central Park Five.

The four-part series chronicles the true story of the black and Latino teens charged with the brutal assault and rape of a Central Park jogger in 1989, taking viewers on a two-decade journey from that night in the park to their exoneration -- and beyond. Directed and co-written by Ava DuVernay, it explores how systemic racism clouded the way the media, law enforcement and the courts dealt with the boys' cases.

The strong performance of "When They See Us," including nominations for actors Jharrel Jerome, Niecy Nash and six others, was one of the bigger stories coming out of this year's crop of contenders. Despite their love of Iron Thrones and three-eyed ravens, it's clear that Emmy voters are paying attention to more pressing issues too.

News of the Netflix drama's Emmy haul was released within the same hour that federal prosecutors announced they would not seek civil rights charges against Daniel Pantaleo. Eric Garner, who was African American, died in 2014 after the officer put him in a chokehold. "When They See Us" speaks directly to many of the issues that stoked uprisings before and after Garner's death, from the distrust between the black community and police to the judicial double standard that confronts people of color.


And where there's racial tension, there's Trump to fan the flames. Since "When They See Us" premiered in May, there's been a back-and-forth between the president and reporters (not to mention DuVernay herself) regarding his reaction to the case in 1989. Trump, then a real estate developer, took out ads in the local New York papers to "BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!"

When asked if he'd apologize to the men who've said their confessions were coerced, Trump said: "They admitted their guilt ... and if you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case, so we'll leave it at that."

The Television Academy's support for the series feels like a direct rebuke to the president. In addition to Trump appearing in the series via archival footage, in which he declares he would "love to be a well-educated black," the Emmy nominations come on the heels of his latest wave of unvarnished racist rhetoric: On Sunday, Trump tweeted that four congresswomen of color, all of whom are Americans, should "go back" to where they came from.

No word yet if Trump plans to return to reality TV if this second-term deal doesn't work out.


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