MTV announced a few weeks ago that for the first time in history, the acting categories at the MTV Movie and TV Awards would be based on performance only, not separated by sex. Last night Emma Watson became the first to win the Best Actor in a Movie award. Others nominated in the category: Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge Of Seventeen), Hugh Jackman (Logan), James McAvoy (Split), and Taraji P Henson (Hidden Figures).
As you know, the MTV Movie Awards have always been the counterpoint to the Oscars (and now the Emmys), celebrating movies (and now television) that resonate more with the greater public and appeal to a younger audience. Within the industry though, the MTV Movie Awards aren’t exactly high prestige and I’m not highlighting this just to be a dick. It’s about impact. How much impact will this make on the awards that matter – to them?
I understand MTV’s intention, I understand that their motivation here is to make the change, be the change. I’m not sure, however, whether or not change happens like this, and in this order. Awards happen at the end of the process. The process begins at story conception. And WHO gets to tell the story. Only then is it decided who plays the story. The awards happen much later. If there’s no equality, no gender parity at the beginning of the process and through the rest of the process, how effective will it be at the end of the process if it’s gender neutral?
Women in Hollywood – just like women in other industries, women across other sectors of society – are not given equal opportunity. If women are not seeing the same opportunities in screenwriting, in directing, and in acting, then what’s the point of equality in awards distribution? Sarah just wrote about the upcoming Wonder Woman movie, how it’s the first female-driven superhero movie by a major studio. And it’s happening only after how many years of male superhero after male superhero. So even in superhero storytelling, women are being outnumbered at least 10 to 1 by men. If the roles aren’t there yet, how will it shake out when there are only a certain amount of nomination slots?
I’m not here to sh-t on the spirit behind MTV’s gender neutrality policy. I support that spirit. What I’m not sure of is whether or not that spirit is enough to actually effect change. I’m not sure that MTV’s gender neutral awards are going to create more opportunity for diversity in film and television. I’m not sure that it starts there.