The MTV Movie Awards go "gender neutral"

The feeding frenzy on the left coast continues as Hollywood gets deeper and deeper into trouble with their own base of social justice warriors. Last week we looked at complaints lobbed at the Emmy Awards over who should or shouldn’t be considered an “actor” or “actress” in the confused miasma of the gender wars. Their somewhat perplexing solution was to simply say that “actor” could apply to anyone and it doesn’t matter anyway because you can be submitted for either category regardless of what gender you “choose.” (But if that’s the case, why have two categories to begin with?)

MTV has their own annual move and television awards ceremony and it sounds like they don’t want to get dragged into this particular food fight. Staving off any possible criticism later, they’ve done a preemptive strike and simply eliminated the concept of gender in their best performer awards. And author Eliza Berman thinks that all the other award shows need to do the same. (Time Magazine)

MTV is doing some spring cleaning this year: The MTV Movie and TV Awards, which air live on May 7, are eliminating separate categories for Male and Female Performance, opting instead for gender-agnostic awards. It’s the second notable change to the show, following last month’s announcement that this year would be the first to recognize television alongside film…

But the change reintroduces a question that has been periodically asked of other, more prestigious (and arguably less progressive) awards shows: why continue to segregate genders when recognizing achievements in the arts? Separate categories for men and women strike many observers as sexist—this is acting we’re talking about, and there’s no reason (at least, none that doesn’t reek of gender essentialism) why gender might influence a performer’s ability. But there’s another reason why the division is outdated: not all people identify as male or female.

Nothing spices up the prospect of a group of millionaire actors, producers, directors and media moguls gathering together to pat each other on the back like a good gender bending debate, eh? And in the larger scheme of things, none of this is terribly important. We’re not talking about the government imposing some sort of SJW mandate on the citizens or invading people’s privacy. If the industry wants to give out fewer awards, let them. But will the rest of the big award shows follow suit? David Sims at the Atlantic finds it unlikely for a few very good reasons.

The chances that the Oscars or Emmys would do away with gendered categories in the near future seem extremely remote. When handing your nominees to a large group of anonymous voters, it’s tough to exert much control over the outcome, and there’s the very real possibility that men would end up dominating the slates. If so, separate acting categories could perpetuate the simplistic idea that male performers are simply better than their female counterparts. But some might argue that gender-neutral categories could be worth unbalanced nomination lists if they shed more light on Hollywood’s deeper systemic problems—including far fewer speaking roles for actresses and the dearth of female directors. Whatever the big ceremonies decide to do, MTV’s rules change and critiques like Dillon’s suggest the issue will at least demand wider attention in coming years.

There’s no good exit ramp for Hollywood in this situation, at least as far as I can tell. Heaven forbid anyone in Tinseltown should suggest that biology and genetics inform us that there actually are two perfectly well defined genders. But, as Sims points out, when you hand the ballots off to a large group of people who vote largely anonymously, you never know what you’ll get back. Most of the leading speaking roles still go to men. Female directors of big budget films are less common than four leaf clovers. What will MTV say in response to the inevitable cries of outrage if all of the big awards this year go to men? The old cries of Oscars So White will be replaced with… MTV So Testicular?

Not that I watch any of these shows anyway, but I’d still be willing to offer the burgeoning award ceremony industry a nickel’s worth of free advice. Ask yourself who exactly you’re supposed to be “offending” by offering a Best Actor and Best Actress award. Particularly when you’re obviously ready to allow anyone to compete in either category based on the gender they happen to “feel like.” Is the looming danger really so great that it outweighs the backlash you’re going to get if a bunch of well dressed white guys wind up taking home nearly all of the statues?

I’d guess the answer is no. Sometimes you have to just cut out the nonsense and get down to business. And the movie and television industry is, beyond question, still big business.