When the 2017 Golden Globes trotted out Modern Family star Sofia Vergara to introduce Sylvester Stallone’s daughters, who were sharing the role of Miss Golden Globe at this year’s ceremony, Vergara’s bit involved not being able to pronounce the word annual. Naturally she said anal instead. Hey, three-syllablers can be hard, especially when, like Vergara, English isn’t your first language. But at least we all got to enjoy the resulting sexy misunderstanding, right? Win-win.
Forcing Sofia Vergara to participate in her own mockery through the comedic magic of sexism and racism has become a fun tradition over the past few years of awards shows, the 2010s equivalent of the shot of Jack Nicholson impishly wearing his sunglasses in the audience. It happened most famously at the 2014 Emmys, when Vergara stood on a rotating pedestal as the (white, male) president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences stood beside her, paying lip service to the organization’s commitment to diversity. “If that’s how you do it in American television, OK!” Vergara said while she was onstage. Then there was last year’s Emmys, when host Jimmy Kimmel did a callback to the pedestal incident, saying the academy president had “one last shot at hitting on Sofia Vergara.”* Cut to Vergara’s “eesh” face. It’s practically expected at this point: When Rolling Stone made drinking-game rules before the 2016 Emmys, the magazine told readers to “Drink every time … Host Jimmy Kimmel makes a reference to Sofia Vergara’s breasts. (Editor’s note: Please stop drinking once that number gets to 10.)”
The joke is always that Vergara can’t speak English and has a funny accent, but Hollywood will let it slide because boy, is she hot! It’s a gag that feels particularly ill-suited for our current political moment, when xenophobia is a very real current in American discourse. Also, at this point, it’s old. So awards show writers, it feels like time to retire this bit once and for all. Or at least stop asking Vergara, by all appearances an epically good sport, to be complicit in it. Jack Nicholson never shows up at awards shows in his shades anymore, and somehow, the world has continued to spin; it sure seems like corny awards show banter will survive just fine without using Sofia Vergara’s hotness and foreignness as fodder.
*Correction, Jan. 9, 2017: This post originally misstated that Jimmy Fallon hosted the 2016 Emmys. It was Jimmy Kimmel.