The MTV Movie & TV Awards just got woke! In a v. progressive and much-needed move, the network scrapped gendered categories. Yup, you read that right—award categories are now non-binary and open to all.
In this year’s Best Actor in a Movie category, nominees include Emma Watson for Beauty and the Beast, Hugh Jackman for Logan, Hailee Steinfeld for The Edge of Seventeen, James McAvoy for Split and Taraji P. Henson for Hidden Figures. It’s super refreshing to a) not categorize actors by their gender and b) acknowledge that not all people identify as male or female. It’s also nice to see that under the “Best Kiss” category, Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome—both male actors of colour—are nominated for their smooch in Moonlight.
On top of their non-gendered category approach, MTV has also combined TV series with feature film nominees for the first time ever, as seen in the Best Villain category where Jared Leto scored a nom for Suicide Squad, as did Jeffrey Dean Morgan for The Walking Dead. The full list of nominees can be seen here.
While the revamped May 7 award show, which will be hosted by our thick crush Adam DeVine (Pitch Perfect, Workaholics, Modern Family, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), is a step in the right direction, gender inclusivity is far from being mainstream just yet. Most award institutions, like the Oscars, still use gender-based categorizes, forcing non-binary actors to pick an identity in order to even be considered for an award. This was the case with actor Asia Kate Dillon, who plays a non-binary character on the TV show Billions, and is also non-binary themselves. As the Washington Post reported, Dillon was to be submitted for an Emmy nomination this year, but had to pick under what category: best supporting actor or best supporting actress. Dillon wrote to the Television Academy questioning the system, and the Emmys told them they could pick either—which isn’t a solution because, again, not everyone is strictly male or female. Ultimately, Dillon chose best supporting actor, since “actor” originated as a non-gendered word.
It’s important to also acknowledge that actors of colour, members of the LGBT community and women are still grossly underrepresented in award nominations—including this year’s MTV Movie & TV Awards. In the Best Comedic Performance category, for example, Lil Rel Howery is the only POC nominee. Save from the Broad City duo, also nominated in that category, all are cisgender males. It’s as if MTV took one step forward by banishing gender, and two steps back by not being diverse enough.
If award ceremonies really want to be inclusive, banishing gendered categories is a good start. If Hollywood continues to stick to its old-fashioned (and harmful) ways, some of the most talented actors won’t get the recognition they deserve—and then no one wins.
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