On Monday night at the 75th Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, Christina Applegate, a presenter of the award for supporting actress in a comedy series, used a cane and walked to the podium with effortful dignity. The 52-year-old actress, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2021, wore a red, silk-velvet dress, her signature blond hair parted to the side, cascading down her shoulders like a golden curtain.
As she spoke into the mic, panic and determination seemed to be waging a battle behind her green eyes. Still, she conjured the disarming smile she’s been flashing at America since 1987, when she played the teenager Kelly Bundy on the sitcom “Married With Children.”
Ms. Applegate wasted no time acknowledging her disease, showing the audience that it would not stop her from coming to the stage. Since her diagnosis, Ms. Applegate appears to have experienced some of its debilitating effects, and has said she no longer plans to work on camera.
Nonetheless, under the blazing lights, on a show broadcast to millions, she spoke deliberately and made a series of jokes meant to both call attention to and deflect from her self-consciousness about her appearance and her chronic illness. Each one walked a fine line.
When some in the audience stood to applaud her, she responded chidingly. “Thank you so much,” she said. “Oh my God. You’re totally shaming me with disability by standing up.”
Laughs are hard to come by in the best of circumstances at awards shows these days, but that line got an uneasy one. Even Ms. Applegate seemed unsure if she wanted people to celebrate her efforts or to treat her like nothing had happened.