‘No one deserves a bigger gratitude than the first responders,” Emmys host Stephen Colbert said during his opening monologue, thanking emergency personnel for “working tirelessly following the disasters in Texas and Florida. And we have to thank also the friends who showed up with the food, the neighbors with boats, the nuns with chainsaws, complete strangers who stepped up to help rebuild.”
That set in motion an evening of national pride and unity as award winner after award winner praised American grit, resourcefulness, and courage during the recent disasters.
In the process of tossing many barbed jokes Trump’s way, including one suggesting the president had committed treason, Colbert also invited (or begged) Trump to Tweet angrily in response, but the chief executive has so far declined. The co-dependent relationship of celebrities to Trump is like that of two bitter, drunken spouses who hurl abuse at each other before they start making out. You wish they would just forget about each other and go their separate ways, but you know they need each other too much.
As the evening wore on, Colbert’s many lame Trump gags were supplanted by the Emmy voters’ obvious, determined effort to send a message: We’re living in The Handmaid’s Tale. That Hulu show was the evening’s big winner because its insane prophecy is the Left’s cognate to the broadcasts of those TV pastors who draw an endless pool of suckers by selling the notion that Judgment Day is surely right around the corner. Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fantasy is now 32 years old, and no closer to coming true now than it was when literary luminaries claimed otherwise back then. But it comforts Hollywood to believe in their version of the Left Behind series. The show won the evening’s top award, Best Drama, the first time Hulu or any streaming service had taken home that prize, and also secured Best Actress, Drama for former Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss, whose own adherence to a certain religious dogma seemed pertinent. As Charles C. W. Cooke puts it, “It’s one thing to say we’re living in The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s quite another for a Scientologist to make that claim.”
Sigh went the audience watching at home, reminding itself to give less and less attention to these blathering, preening monomaniacs. Most Americans, even those who didn’t vote for Trump, are simply getting on with their lives these days, more worried about their car payment or how their kids are faring in school than about Washington politics.
It was, surprisingly, left to the one Emmy winner most strongly identified with mocking Trump to provide a vital moment of perspective. Alec Baldwin, who won Best Supporting Actor, Comedy for his Saturday Night Live impression of Trump, offered this reflection: “When you die you don’t remember a bill that Congress passed, or a decision the Supreme Court made, or an address made by the president. You remember a song. You remember a line from a movie. You remember a play. You remember a book, a painting, a poem.”
Just so. Which is why, if it really wants to serve the public interest, Hollywood should get over its obsession with what’s going on in Washington and just create better shows — including awards shows.
— Kyle Smith is National Review’s critic-at-large.