In case you missed it, this year the Emmys thought it would make a hilarious gag to stick “Modern Family” actress Sofia Vergara on a rotating platform akin to something you might see at a car show while Bruce Rosenblum, the chief executive of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, delivered a speech about diversity.
After she introduced him, Rosenblum said to Vergara, “This has been a terrific year for American television and our shows continue to have a meaningful impact around the world. To demonstrate, we’d love for you to stand on this revolving platform.”
Vergara: “That seems a bit unnecessary, but if that’s how they do it in American television, okay.”
Rosenblum concluded his speech on this note: “What truly matters is that we never forget that our success is based on always giving the viewer something compelling to watch.” He turned to acknowledge Vergara, who at this point was preening and yukking it up harder than Honey Boo Boo at a child beauty pageant.
Twitter users watching the telecast were quick to call out the blatant objectification of Vergara, and contrast it with Beyoncé’s Sunday night VMA performance, which gave us an image of a fully-realized, self contained super star standing in front of a sign that read “FEMINIST.”
What a difference a day makes?
Why would Sofia Vergara agree to that humiliation? Why did no one at NBC stop that insulting bit? Miss VMA Beyonce already. #Emmys2014
— Victoria Namkung (@VictoriaNamkung) August 26, 2014
Dear Academy President: Sofia Vergara is not a prize from the Price Is Right. #Emmys
— Janet Mock (@janetmock) August 26, 2014
Here’s how Vergara saw it, according to Entertainment Weekly: “I think its absolutely the opposite. It means that somebody can be hot and also be funny and make fun of herself.”
Earlier in the show, when Julianna Margulies won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, she said, “What a wonderful time for women in television!”
There’s a lot to unpack here, because, well for starters, circumstances have greatly improved for women in television; just examine the roles of the women who were nominated in the Outstanding Supporting Actress category: Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad”), Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey”), Joanne Froggatt (“Downton Abbey”), Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”), Christine Baranski (“The Good Wife”), and Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”). There’s not a single fluff role among them. They’re all characters with shades of complexity and nuance and enviable lines.
In addition, Monday night was a night where two women, Sarah Silverman and Gail Mancuso, won awards for comedy — Silverman for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special, and Mancuso for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series. Moira Walley-Beckett, the writer of the “Ozymandias” episode of “Breaking Bad” and the only woman in a category stacked with men, won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. However, television’s most visible show with an overwhelmingly female and minority cast, “Orange is the New Black,” was completely shut out.
In regard to Vergara, the humor wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill “wowwee she’s hot” variety — we’re talking about the Emmys, which means we’re talking about a room full of very hungry women who won the genetic lottery. The fact that Vergara is Colombian and therefore an “outsider” was continually played up for kicks.
This has been the center of Vergara’s “Modern Family” shtick since the show began in 2009. But the platform routine also led to tweets like this:
Sofia Vergara is an insult to all women for allowing herself to be such a caricature, but particularly for Hispanic women. #Emmys2014
— Nicole Noël (@NicoleMarieNoel) August 26, 2014
Then there’s a question of whether it’s fair to expect Vergara to be an avatar for all Latinas (of course not) and how to fix that (more visible Latinas in a variety of roles on television). And there’s a question of how much everyone else should be bothered since Vergara has demonstrated time and time again that she doesn’t have a problem doing this. After all, Vergara is 42, according to IMDB. Is it fair to lay all the blame for Platform-gate on NBC and the Emmy show writers who came up with this bit?
— Linda B. Daffin (@Lbelle55) August 26, 2014