For the first time ever, a major awards show has done away with gender specific categories. Last night’s MTV Movie and TV Awards (watch it now on MTV.ca) made history by eliminating gender specific categories, instead nominating male and female identified actors together in the categories Best Actor in a Movie and Best Actor in a TV Series.
The first award of the night went to Emma Watson, who won Best Actor in a Movie for her role as iconic Disney character Belle, in Beauty and the Beast. The award was presented by Billions actor Asia Kate Dillon, who is the first non-binary actor to play a non-binary character on a major network series. “Tonight we celebrate portrayals of the human experience, because the only distinction we should be making when it comes to awards is between each outstanding performance,” said Dillon before announcing Watson as the winner.
Watson, a long-time activist and proponent of gender equality, took the chance to praise MTV for their decision to move to gender neutral awards, saying the music TV station’s actions shows that “nominees based on their sex, says something about how we perceive the human experience.”
The Harry Potter actor and graduate of Brown University went on to say that MTV’s new categorization of awards “indicates that acting is about the ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes, and that doesn’t need to be separated into two different categories.”
Watson’s efforts to make Belle a more feminist character, including not wearing a corset while filming and altering Belle’s clothing to be more functional, was echoed in her speech. “The villagers in our fairy tale wanted to make Belle believe that the world was smaller than the way that she saw it with fewer opportunities for her, that her curiosity and passion for knowledge and her desire for more in life were grounds for alienation,” said Watson. “I loved playing someone who didn’t listen to any of that. I’m so proud to be part of a film that celebrates diversity, literacy, inclusion, joy and love the way that this one does.”
The evening was full of empowerment, with Beauty and the Beast also winning the final award of the night for Best Movie. Standing on stage with stars Emma Watson and Josh Gad, director Bill Condon pointed out that the success of Beauty and the Beast was in large part due to female viewers. “This is so exciting, thank you so much,” Condon said. “Thank you to the audience who embraced this movie so much, but especially thank you to the women, because women have proven that they’re a huge and powerful audience, and it’s gonna change the movie business.”
Hidden Figures star Taraji P. Henson took home the award for Best Fight Against the System for her role as real life NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, and also spoke about the importance of inclusion and supporting young women who want to enter the STEM field.
“No one ever told me that girls couldn’t do math and science, but there was an understanding, right?” said Henson. “There was an understanding that it was for boys. I remember getting this script [and] being very upset because I felt like a dream was stolen from me, and it became my mission and everyone’s mission who was involved with this film, to dispel that myth, that another young girl would not grow up thinking that her mind wasn’t capable of grasping math and science.”
You can watch Asia Kate Dillon star in Season 2 of Billions available now on CraveTV. Watch the 2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards now on MTV.ca.