MTV Gets Rid of Gendered Categories for Film & TV Awards

05.01.2017 Culture


After revealing its popular Movie Awards would become the Movie and TV Awards, MTV continued to make headlines by announcing it would also get rid of gendered categories in 2017. Explaining the network’s decision to make changes after 25 years, MTV president Chris McCarthy told Vulture, “This audience actually doesn’t see male-female dividing lines, so we said, ‘Let’s take that down.”

The Start of a Conversation

MTV’s announcement followed news that non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon, who portrays Taylor Mason in the Showtime series Billions, had written an open letter to the Television Academy, hoping to start a conversation about the gendered categories still used by the Emmy Awards.

Dillon’s letter reads, “The reason I’m hoping to engage you in a conversation about this is because if the categories of ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ are in fact supposed to represent ‘best performance by a person who identifies as a woman’ and ‘best performance by a person who identifies as a man’ then there is no room for my identity within that award system binary.”

Dillon was encouraged by the Academy’s response, which explained that their official rules allow anyone to enter under either category for any reason, without fear of investigation or punishment. Dillon has entered the Actor category, explaining, “Given the choice between actor and actress, actor is a non-gendered word that I use.”

 

Other Awards Getting Rid of Gendered Categories

While many award ceremonies, including the Emmys and the Oscars, have yet to adopt a non-binary system, MTV is not alone in its decision. The British National Television Awards has gone gender-neutral in recent years. And, in 2011, the Grammy’s also removed its male/female categories (along with other cuts which led to 28% fewer categories overall).

These decisions have been met overwhelmingly with excitement and support. Some, however, worry that removing gendered categories may actually perpetuate inequalities rather than repair them. After all, gendered categories were established with the hope of preventing sexism, ensuring that female artists received the distinct recognition they deserved. In an industry that continues to be dominated by white, heterosexual/cis-gendered men, some worry for those who may fall to the wayside, receiving nominations but never coming out on top. Others argue that these decisions have less to do with creating gender equality and more to do with creating a better (if not more brutal) competition with more competitors.

Only time will tell who these changes will truly affect. In the meantime, the conversation continues. Writing for Buzzfeed News, Katie Hasty describes how award ceremonies such as the Grammys offer an important study for how “issues of race, gender, and privilege intersect,” allowing us to see the complexity of how we value the elements of our culture. Still, if nothing else, many find comfort in the fact that the criteria for these awards can change, and we can only hope they will continue to change as needed.

What Else is New at This Year’s MTV Awards?

MTV’s decision to get rid of gendered categories isn’t the only new part of this year’s Movie and TV Awards. By revising its criteria for categorization, the awards will pit many stars of film and TV against each other. Best Villain, for example, includes nominations for Jared Leto in Suicide Squad, Jeffrey Dean Morgan from The Walking Dead, and even the Demogorgon from Stranger Things. Other categories will be separated according to their medium, such as Best Actor in a Movie and Best Actor in a Show. See the full list of nominations here.

MTV has also updated other categories to acknowledge the current political climate. This year’s awards introduce the Best American Story category (featuring ABC’s Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat, Amazon’s Transparent, and Moonlight). Additionally, the Best Fight category has become Best Fight Against the System (featuring Get Out, Hidden Figures, and Luke Cage).

The 2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards will be hosted by Workaholics star Adam Devine on Sunday, May 7.

 

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