When nominations for the 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced this morning, we were elated to hear Sofia Vergara’s name among the nominees. The Colombian actress—a scene-stealer on ABC’s Modern Family—received her second consecutive Outstanding Supporting Actress nomination for her work on the hit comedy.
What we weren’t thrilled about, however, was that the Emmys honored Sofia’s over-the-top performance as a stereotypically fiery, passionate, loud Latina with an accent (who just so happens to be married to an older, wealthier man) while once again overlooking the performances of several Latina stars who played complex characters that break the mold—like America Ferrera, Sara Ramirez and Lauren Velez.
America’s exclusion from the list is probably the most shocking and disappointing of the three snubs. This year, the Honduran actress, a past Emmy winner for Best Actress in a Comedy Series (Ugly Betty), joined CBS’ critically acclaimed drama, The Good Wife in the role of Natalie Flores, a college student born in Mexico, whose illegal-immigrant status put the brakes on her college career and her dream of becoming a State’s attorney. Poignant and ripped from the headlines (the debate over the DREAM Act still rages on), America’s performance on the show shattered misconceptions about what it means to be an undocumented worker in America. Natalie was a smart, educated, articulate, goal-oriented, English-speaking Latina who didn’t rely on her sexual prowess to get ahead.
"[Natalie] is sort of the anti-stereotype of what people imagine when they hear those labels," America has said of her character. Was that anti-stereotype confusing to Academy voters who are mostly White males? Possibly.
Then there’s Sara Ramirez. You would think that after she stole the show in the Grey’s Anatomy musical episode this year—bringing tears to our eyes and music to our ears—Sara would get some Emmy love. Sadly, it seems the Mexican-American actress’s Callie Torres—a Lesbian orthopedic surgeon—could not move voters quite the way Sandra Oh has in previous years for what is arguably a better performance. Sara’s Callie isn’t overly sexual, she is soft-spoken and she’s a doctor—not a housewife or a maid.
“We still have the maids and the gardeners and the heavy accents,” Ramirez told Latina earlier this year. “I’m not against someone with an accent—that exists. So I’m not against that being portrayed on TV—but there are so many people who are Latino who don’t have accents, who don’t clean houses, who aren’t servicing others in the ways that we’ve grown used to seeing,” she said. “We’re now doctors, we are now lawyers, we are now doing a lot more in the world.”
And speaking of doing a lot more in the world, we also have to wonder if the Emmys didn’t know what to make of Lauren Velez—who has been playing the boss of a Miami police department on the Showtime hit Dexter for five seasons. Is Laguerta, a strong Latina who is uncompromising and brutal when need be, not the kind of “Latina” they like to see on television?
In truth, the issue of Latinas not getting nominated is more an issue of a continued lack of diversity in general at the Emmys. This year, despite the fact that census data shows that one in six Americans is Latino (and one in four kids is Latino), 45 of the 48 actors nominated for a primetime Emmy in the major acting categories are White. And unfortunately, this isn’t the first time. In 2009, not a single Latino was nominated for a major acting award at the Emmys, and last year, Sofia Vergara was the only Latina nominated for a major acting award out of 61 acting nominees and 13 possible roles on network TV. To date, a Latina (scratch that: NOT ONE SINGLE woman of color) has won an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama Series.
Sofia, felicidades! We are so proud of you and think you are a true comic genius who brings depth and interest to what could have been a flat role. We are rooting for you!
Emmy Awards, we remain unimpressed. No wonder Univision is winning the primetime ratings war…