If any of you were around to watch the MTV Movie and TV Awards this weekend, you’ll have been witness to the makings of what many publications are calling “cinematic history”. As this was the first year that the awards show offered gender-neutral categories, this year’s winners competed for the overarching label of “Best Actor”. From an inclusionary and feminist perspective, this symbolizes a huge step for trans, nonbinary, and other gendered folks. Finally creating a categorical space for non-cis actors means the chance for them to be recognized as themselves, and actually given the chance to be recognized for their work on the screen for the very first time. (*Cough Cough* Now, if we could only get actual trans and nonbinary actors hired… that would be GREAT. THX.)
I know you’re wondering now, did any non-cis people actually win that award? Well, it’s not surprising to hear that no, they didn’t. The awards went to two white women. Best Actor went to Emma Watson for her role in Beauty and the Beast, and Best Actor in a TV Show went to Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown. And you know what? Good for them. At least when women were in the same category as men, these women were able to be recognized, and that’s great. I’m not saying they did or didn’t deserve the awards. (Let’s be honest, meeting Millie Bobby Brown is probably on all of our bucket lists.) But my beef here is with the oblivious lack of recognition of these actresses’ privilege to receive this award, as was their responsibility to do so by being the first ever to win a Gender Neutral award for acting on a mainstream recognized platform.
I’ve been reading all these headlines and watching mini-videos circulating over my Timeline about ‘Emma Watson Makes History’ and ‘Emma Watson’s Beautiful MTV Speech’, and honestly, I knew it was going to be riddled with white feminist crap, but I clicked anyway, and ergo I wanted to barf and my eyes rolled back so far that I still cannot find them*.
*If found, please DM me. Or if you watch it, and can’t find yours either, we’ll form a support group or something.
Continuing on– Emma Watson made an intelligent and eloquent speech. She really is a wonderfully gifted speaker. And that night she chose to use her skill to provide commentary on the award itself and its having the potential to symbolize a myriad of things to everyone. The thing is, she chose to highlight the award’s importance from an extremely narrow, privileged perspective. She focused on how the award makes history not by allowing the inclusion of non-cis folks, but because it “doesn’t separate nominees based on their sex” and it “indicates that acting” “doesn’t need to be separated into two different categories”.
Yes, Emma Watson, actors shouldn’t have to be separated into different categories to ensure that their work will be recognized. And yes, women have their own category because sexism and patriarchy, and we need to work towards that not being a thing. But hello! Girl. Your cis-sexism is showing, and you need to put it away. It’s gross.
Let’s get something through your brain. Your feminism is basic AF, and sex does not equate to gender. Sex does not equate to gender, “the sexes” are not a thing, intersex people exist, trans people exist, nonbinary people exists, and Wake Up Call: this award erases way more than the “two categories” that you think people exist in.
This is about way more than just ‘we don’t need categories, we just have our work, and “how we perceive the human experience”. Honey, this historic moment that you are a part of right now isn’t about the ability to act. It’s about creating a space to recognize the “human experience[s]” of the people whom you are so very oblivious. It is for the people who aren’t reflected in the roles you play or your speeches of feminism around the globe. It is for the people who laugh at your comment about your character, Belle, representing “alienation” and the fact that you think your film “celebrates diversity” and “inclusion”. Which is maybe why your speech was neither inclusive nor aware of the diverse.
It makes me sad because this awards show had a lot of promise this year with these gender neutral categories. That, plus, Moonlight– an actually, diverse and inclusive film–was nominated three times in multiple categories. One of which was Best Kiss, which it won! If y’all remember in an earlier article that Soule published, I expressed that it was important to be critical of the audience fetishizing a kiss between queer men and downplay the importance of the scene that the kiss was in if they ended up winning. Unlike Emma Watson, they didn’t disappoint me. Actors Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome chose not to kiss at all, but to take that moment to highlight the impact of their work and not focus on the spectacle of it. They said that their job as actors was to “do whatever it takes to tell the story and whatever it takes to make the change”, and furthermore that this award for Best Kiss “represents more than just a kiss” but dedicated it to those who feel as if they are the Other.
Ironically, it wasn’t the cinematic history-making gender-neutral acting award that called attention to what was important that night. Rather, it was in the shallow and juvenile category of Best Kiss where viewers were able to see the importance in the recognition of the Other, and how far making space for otherness can take us as actors and as human beings.