I was lucky enough this week to attend the Television Academy Honors, an annual awards ceremony that recognizes the creators of socially relevant programming that creates awareness, enlightens, educates and/or positively motivates audiences.
It is an honor totally separate from the Academy’s annual Emmy Awards and was established as a way to spotlight television shows that go above and beyond to tackle difficult and timely issues in hopes that this will in some way fuel more discussion of the show and/or issue in the social zeitgeist.
It was also meant as a small pat on the back to the people who more often that not struggle against great odds to get these types of programs (e.g. scripted, non-scripted, documentary) on air.
But suffice it to say they dealt with race (director Julia Willoughby Nason entering with Trayvon Martin’s mother to accept for Paramount Network’s docuseries, Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story); childhood cancer (executive producer; writer Heather Wordham accepting for the Netflix comedy, Alexa and Katie, where one of two teen friends lives with leukemia), transgender rights (creator Steven Canals and trans writer-director Janet Mock awarded for FX’s LGBTQ themed 1980s set drama series, Pose); and rape (co-directors Trish Adlesic and Greta Gandbhir cited for reporting on 13 of a group of hundreds of women awaiting scores of lost or misplaced rape kits in HBO’s I Am Evidence).
Now important as these themes are, one could argue the last thing the entertainment industry needs right now is another award, especially since presumably all of these people were paid and had the pleasure of seeing their vision and onscreen credit on TV screens, as well as many other screens, across the world.
On the other hand, why should one thing disqualify the other?
The fact that a person gets attention for or makes a living at something that benefits society is certainly not immoral in itself. It only becomes that way when their compensation (financial or otherwise) is immorally over-the-top or the makers themselves are nauseatingly immodest, and/or immoral.
In that way, show business award recipients are not unlike politicians – we may watch and secretly vote for the winner of our choice but on the whole we can also too often smell their elitism and privilege through our TV screens. To truly trust and admire any of these guys and gals, particularly those of the political kind, is to make a leap of faith that we inevitably know we’ll be sorry for some time in the future.
Or, as the recent history of most sequels, subsequent seasons or elected officials too often demonstrate, the not-so-distant future.
Certainly this is beyond cynical (Note: even for a Chair), particularly when we speak about people who create content (Note: Okay, I loathe that word too) that speaks to timely and serious subject matter.
You can’t lump two women who made a documentary about rape survivors whose evidence was misplaced with, say, the worst symbol of entertainment industry immortality (not to mention rape) and over-privilege – Harvey Weinstein. Right??? Right??????
In the same way we wouldn’t condemn a white female director as slumming for having the temerity to direct a docuseries about the murder of a black male teenager like Trayvon Martin and its role in the social justice movement, especially since she had the participation of his mother. Correct??? Correct?????
Not to mention only the most insensitive loutish fool among us would gripe that said mother, Sybrina Fulton, only participated in the docuseries as a way to continue to be seen in the public eye so she could run for the job she now seeks – a seat on the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners. Do you agree???? YOU AGREEEEE, RIGHT?????????
So, if that is the case, then why are so many of us now more than willing to jump to these same type of conclusions about many of those politicians now running for office, particularly those running for the highest political office in the land?
And why do so many more of us think even worse of the millions who just might be thinking of supporting any one of the above?
If we can award a show business content-maker for stepping up center stage and speaking eloquently to the issues, or even a single issue, then why can’t we have the same admiration for any one of the many politicians daring to do the same in our virtual Town Square at a time when, as a country, we are as divided as we’ve ever been?
Let’s leave Trump and his base voters out of this for now because that’s too easy. Instead, let’s concentrate solely on a select few top frontrunners in the Democratic field.
Why is it that Joe Biden and his supporters are backwards-looking and the former Vice President needs to be spit-roasted and attacked on every point he’s ever made in a half century old career as we poo-poo all the positive points he scores in the 2019 landscape?
How is it that Elizabeth Warren’s supporters are unrealistic and virulent and she’s too librarian-ish and lecture-y and Trump-tainted to win a general election?
What does it say about us that Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay person to EVER have a serious chance of becoming U.S. president, is already being relegated to the category of moderate, safe, old school white male privilege and his supporters as something less than progressive?
When did it become okay to knock a female biracial senator like Kamala Harris for too often playing the race card and at the same time condemn her for being a little too tough on the non-white community as a former prosecutor because she rose through the mainstream political ranks while married to a white Jewish guy? And how come it’s okay to grab HER mike on a stage and no one else’s?
I would be more than happy with any one of the above four candidates as the Democratic nominee to be our next POTUS. And thrilled to have any of them, and many others as a REAL president.
To that end I’ve been vocal about each of them on various social media posts, as well as in person.
Yet I find that the candidate(s) and myself are ALWAYS eventually attacked by someone, and ALWAYS of my own party, for any one of the above reasons.
Now don’t get me wrong, I can take the attacks. In fact, sometimes I too happily relish them, anxious to fight back and toss back some witty bon mot in the direction of the attacker, preferably right smack in their ____________.
But that doesn’t do much except make me feel better and more superior in the moment. Pleasurable though that may be, it also simultaneously pushes back said candidate of the moment at least a notch or two…or even three ok, eight.
Therefore it seems that if we can all too happily hand out awards for producers, directors, writers and stars who try to speak out and raise our consciousness on social issues in TV, we (including myself) might also try to cut a little slack to those few among us who we might not immediately support but who are at least trying speak to these real points in real life.
Agree or not, but to act as judge, jury and critic months before their full show, series or docudrama has even aired, or immediately condemn those of us who might like and/or try to promote the kind of socially relevant program they offer as knee-jerk ignorant, stupid or, worst of all, too privileged, IS JUST PLAIN ________.
….well, maybe consider …not doing it?
We will all likely try to speak out about social injustice in our own ways and through whatever means is available to us in the next year or so. To listen to and truly consider the issues and the handful of candidates others will choose to make the case seems at the very least the mightiest of really American things to do.
It would also certainly be worthy of an award if we still gave them out for that kind of thing. Though once upon a time we did and it was simply called… citizenship.