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Michaela Coel's Emmys speech dedicated to sexual assault survivors was something rare -- a speech directed at viewers, not attendees

  • "Coel’s was the rare speech that understood what ceremonies such as the Emmys continue to overlook: what the audience at home truly wants to see," says Shirley Lee. "This year’s Emmys tried several glossy methods to improve ratings after the largely virtual 2020 Emmys failed to attract viewers. The 2021 format mimicked the Golden Globes, seating attendees at tables with food and drink. The show featured a host, Cedric the Entertainer, who starred in a handful of pre-taped sketches. It even had an opening number, and set up a separate party for the cast and crew of The Crown, in London, so they could tune in to the main event in downtown Los Angeles. Yet for all of the Emmys’ efforts to attract eyeballs, the show still kept the audience at a remove. CBS, the network on which the awards aired, bleeped out profanity, making some speeches unclear. The show spoiled, during highlight clips, major plot reveals on Mare of Easttown and The Mandalorian—likely not an issue for the talent who worked on those series, but certainly a detriment to a casual TV watcher. And viewers never really learned whether the presenter Seth Rogen was joking when he complained that he’d been “lied to” about the ceremony being outdoors, and that, amid a pandemic, it was being held inside a 'hermetically sealed tent' instead. Coel, by contrast, invited the audience in. The artistry of her speech—in which she dedicated her award to 'every single survivor of sexual assault'—came from her recognition that people would be watching, sinking ratings or not, and looking for something beyond GIF-able reaction shots and self-congratulatory acknowledgments. When the camera turned to her, she took a moment for herself, and then addressed those who needed to hear her the most."

    TOPICS: Michaela Coel, CBS, 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards, I May Destroy You, Award Shows