I went to a university that runs its own Emmy-style awards show. It’s even won awards for being such a high-quality awards show. Let that sink in for a minute and understand what we mean when we say Hollywood is a hall of mirrors.
The work of students is nominated by teachers and the top three nominated vie for a trophy. I was disappointed in my final year in school when a professor pulled me aside to say that, although my particular film was a favorite among the staff, it couldn’t be nominated because the subject matter was too controversial. I’d done a feminist critique of pornography.
He tried to take the sting off the rejection by giving me the opportunity to run one of the live cameras at the awards ceremony. Or so I thought. A friend involved in the broadcast also asked me to be part of the show and so I finally agreed. This is a live broadcast that runs just like a professional awards ceremony. In fact, the New England daytime Emmy awards have their show and broadcast in the same theater immediately after the student awards show. I was pretty excited to be involved since usually handling cameras turned into a sausage fest at this school and the women were not-so-subtly shut out. I can only hope that things have improved since then, but as I can still count the number of women film directors on one hand, I kind of doubt it.
[Working a job in Los Angeles in the house Eddie Fisher built for Elizabeth Taylor wearing the Headset of Film Majors. Los Angeles, 1999.]
Imagine my surprise when during the awards broadcast there came a moment when the presenter mentioned the diversity of the school and the spotlights swung around and lit all the camera operators. We diverse crew of women and people of color. That all the cameras were operated by women and minority students was a small matter I hadn’t noticed until they pointed it out. I’d only been asked to do this because I was a girl!
My stomach lurched. The audience applauded. Look at the diversity!
Years later, I was attending The People’s Choice in Hollywood. It was when I found myself arguing with James Cameron about whose limo would be next in the queue that I made the decision never to attend another awards show unless I was personally nominated. Nowadays, I can’t even bring myself to watch them on TV.
Tokenism is balls.