Is Diversity Finally Coming to the TV Academy?

Last year we asked: is “tolerance” in Hollywood a myth

As we put it back then, “Here’s the truth about Hollywood and religious tolerance: it’s limited to certain religions.”

Award statues
Emmy awards, issued by the Television Academy (Photo by Joe Seer/Shutterstock.com)

Not, for example, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And not, of course, Scientology.

This, in spite of the fact that, in the case of the latter religion, Hollywood and Scientology have links as far back as the thirties, when a prominent young writer named L. Ron Hubbard—who would go on to found the Scientology religion—worked at the then-Sunset Studio to adapt one of his novels into the 15-episode movie serial The Secret of Treasure Island.

In a Hollywood plot twist, the Church of Scientology later purchased that very same lot, and meticulously restored it into an award-winning, fully integrated production studio, with its own 24/7 DIRECTV channel, making Scientology Media Productions more than an accredited player in town—in fact, the most modern and sophisticated digital media facility of its kind on the planet.

While we are rightly taught never to discriminate against Muslims and Jews, hate speech against many other religions seems to be just fine in Hollywood. 

Still, the hateful lies persist in Hollywood, pushed by players like the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which actually recycled and awarded a show for the 2020 Emmy Awards that incited hate against three religions. 

Really? 

Hard to credit in an age of diversity, but a jarring example of “tolerance” in Hollywood, indeed. 

This was a show A&E had already cancelled for its crashing ratings, advertiser desertions, and because it inspired real-life hate crimes. But like a zombie apocalypse featuring living-dead bigots, the show shambled on stage with the help of a “wink-and-a-smile” Academy to set another chapter in horrific double standards.

Hollywood
Photo by Ingus Kruklitis/Shutterstock.com

Yes, while we are rightly taught never to discriminate against Muslims and Jews, hate speech against many other religions seems to be just fine in Hollywood. The message being, à la George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “Some religions are just more equal than others.”

But in early March, the TV Academy hired a consulting firm, ostensibly to address issues of equality head-on.

Under the banner of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the company will analyze “staff and member composition, attitudes and perceptions regarding DEI, opportunities for improvement, and expansion of current practices.”

Fair enough. But inquiring minds want to know: is freedom of belief on the Academy consultant’s to-do list for diversity, equity and inclusion? Because our nation was actually founded on freedom of religion.

Or, having taken a first step, will the Academy now simply lurch from one equity problem to the next, continuing to ignore faith as a core minority rights issue, along with race, gender and sexuality?

TV academy
The Television Academy courtyard (Photo by Dima Otvertchenko/Creative Commons)

There may be many at the TV Academy who don’t support your religion, my religion, or any religion at all… and that’s certainly their right. But it is not their right to assert elite privilege to target and marginalize those of us whom they deem “the other.”

Is freedom of belief on the Academy consultant’s to-do list?

The Academy has an opportunity to start doing the right thing. Progress, compassion, and inclusivity are always better-late-than-never propositions. 

The Academy can do something proactively to correct their past displays of egregious intolerance in the media capital of the world. 

They can even start setting a fine example for the rest, the best social cure of all. 

Because it’s never too late for tolerance—and it’s never unwise to get on the right side of history. 

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