Monday, May 15, 2017
GENDER-BLIND ACTING AWARDS: SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS IN LIGHT OF THE MTV MOVIE & TV AWARDS UNIQUE DECISION!
So, I'll be honest, until I looked it up, a few seconds ago, I hadn't actually seen or heard Emma Watson's speech. It's a good speech, and appropriate for the situation and, eh-um, people were talking about it, apparently? And people were annoyed at it, um, for some reason. I'll be honest, I wasn't really listening to everything being discussed about it, 'cause who cares? It's the MTV Movie Awards,- oh, excuse me, Movie & TV Awards, 'cause like the Broadcast Film Critics have done in recent years, they're trying to combine both of these mediums and make them seem equally important and I get why, does it really work, and,... well, that's a discussion for another time.
The discussion that others seem to be having is about, the fact that, the MTV Awards, did do something unusual with their acting awards, they combined, the genders. There wasn't a Best Actor and a Best Actress, there was a Best Lead Acting and Supporting Acting award for each medium, and Emma Watson, went down in history for winning the first such award, and she made note of it, and the significance of that. For instance, it's pretty amazing that such an award was indeed won by a woman. And not one named Meryl Streep for that matter, although to be fair I don't think Streep ever done particularly well at the MTV's but I don't think she loses sleep over it. But seriously, I'm a skeptic, and no particular enthralled with the way popular votes seem to go these days; I would've thought a guy would've won.
Anyway, the reason that MTV is doing this, is two-fold and it's about including who don't necessarily identify themselves as one gender or another and since there are more examples of such successful performers and actors out there in general in the world, MTV, always on the more progressive side, decided to make notice of that first, to start a conversation about it. And, yeah, you know what, I have in the trans community, and have close friends all up and down the LGBTTQQIAAP rainbow, and, while the MTV Movie Awards are hardly the most legitimate thing around, change doesn't happen in a vacuum and start at the biggest and most popular part of the pop culture populace; it always starts at the fringes before it inevitably takes effect elsewhere as more and more people start becoming receptive to the idea, so if this is, the future, we should talk about it, and discuss it.
Should acting awards, be genderless?
(Takes a breath, looks around. Checks time on computer. Sighs loudly Takes another deep breath. Take a sip from big gulp.)
Oh, did you want me to start? Why don't you start? What, why do I have to do all the talking on this? I don't know what to think about this? You think I have an answer to everything? I don't know what to talk about here? I mean, I can make a joke or two, but, I don't know the right answer to this?
I mean, I can look some stuff up, and give some facts or whatever, and I probably will, but, (Shrugs) I mean, I can see every side of this and I don't know of any good answer. I mean, the idea of a genderless-, well, that's not really the right word either-, eh, gender-bling acting awards, doesn't sound awful. And, marketing-wise, I gotta admit I'm not exactly thrilled about how things are marketed towards one gender or the other. I mean, one of my favorite film critics, Manohla Dargis put up a Facebook post about a month ago, about having to pick a gender in order to sign up for Hulu, and talked about how insensitive it is, and you know, she's not wrong. Especially for those who don't fit into either gender easily. I mean, if you check out my Hulu or youtube or Netflix or anything, you probably won't be able to pick out my gender particularly easily. I'm a sports fan that binges on "Project Runway', what sex does that make me?
Look, that's what really at stake, is how this is about society's perception, and not really so much about whether an awards show separates by gender or not, And in terms of how society looks at, and treats women, much less any other sex other than males, this is so far on the bottom of the problems with society that, it's almost literally the last thing there is to fight for. But, I picked the entertainment business, so what exactly is the big deal? Well, who won the Oscar for Best Female Director last year?
Yeah, it is only acting awards, and-, well, there's good reasons and bad reasons for that. For one thing, it is sexist. I mean, just the fact that we have the word, "Actress" is a bit odd. Actor, means, a person who's profession is acting, but "actress" means, a woman whose profession is acting. And I'm not being obnoxious grammar person, and nor am I making that up, that's literally the meanings of those words. Actor is not gender-specific, actress is, and that even goes back to the words origins, 'cause, keep in mind, in many parts of the world at some point, women weren't allowed to be actors. The term came about when that trend started dissipating. and there have been efforts to eliminate that stigma. The Screen Actors Guild for instance, if you check their website; they don't give out Actress awards, they give out Female Actor in a Leading Role or Supporting Role awards. They still separate by gender, but they don't use the word "actress". There are some who I've heard go further and really claim that actress is particularly derogatory because it implies that actresses can only play roles that are female, and that's not true at all. Linda Hunt famously won an Oscar for playing a male character in "The Year of Living Dangerously" and some female actors, most notably Whoopi Goldberg are known for seeking out and taking roles that defy their gender and their "types". Whoopi for instance, once played the role of the slave on Broadway in "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum", a role made famous, and originally written for, Zero Mostel. And if you're familiar with that play, that's a pretty big jump in casting. But she's an actor, and as she claims, she can play any role, not just female roles, so why not?
That's the thing, casting. I know, there's always talk about how we can never really know who the best actor is unless we get them all to play the same part, but if you're a producer or a Director, do you always have to cast the best person for the part? I mean, I doubt "Moonlight" would've been as good as it was if Mahershala Ali's part was played by Rosie O'Donnell. (Not to pick on Rosie, I actually think she's an underrated actress) It might be a great performance and a good movie, but yeah, it clearly a miscast part. I mean, for all the talk about whitewashing roles that goes on, mainly under the somewhat legitimate notion that you need stars in lead roles to make money on a film and most major stars, for one reason or another are mainly white, the fact remains, most of the time, you're trying to cast the best person for the best part, not just talent, but aesthetics-wise. You have a 30-year-old white male lead character, why not cast a 30-year-old white male for the part, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that, if that's the kind of actor you most need for the role. Same goes, for 100-year-old Black grandmother, to teenage Asian chick, to, 40-year-old Latino lawyer, to, overweight again male cop and every part in-between, That's part of my main reason, I'm not so, sold on gender-blind awards for acting, 'cause it's not necessarily the actors fault that they get the parts they get. But then again, there's nothing wrong, with it the other way, having a set character type in mind, and then casting outside of that, either. The real problem comes when it's presumed or assumed that certain roles or parts have their features built into their roles, as apart of the character's identity they're sex, ethnicity, etc., and then, there's a presumed casting choice that goes against that. That's one of the reasons I'm not as prone as others to thinking that Idris Elba should play James Bond, but then again, the first time anybody played James Bond that remotely resembled the character from the novels was Daniel Craig, so I guess there's 40 years or so of casting against part of precedent, then sure, why not a Brit of African descent?
I keep saying, "but then again..." in this article, and I have a feeling I'm gonna say it a 100 times more just thinking about this issue. For instance, then again, one of the reasons I'm not crazy about gender-blind awards, is that, I like seeing awards given out, and I think there's enough of a compelling argument above to claim that there's a good enough reason to give out male and female awards separately. Even besides that, I like seeing people honored for their craft, across all fields, and you do too. I know there's morons out there, who want to be hip and cool, and shit on all awards and award shows, but at the end of the day, if something you like wins, you're happy they won. Even if the recipient doesn't give a shit. Hell, I give out my own awards every year; we like doing it, we like seeing it.
And there is another option here, we could also give out acting awards separately for every other gender's performance? I mean, there's not necessarily enough to break trans and others into their own category every year for every awards show, but one day there will be. That would be great!
No, it won't that's just dumb. Yeah, nevermind, separating genders into more groups to give out more awards, no, I'd rather have gender-blind, it actually is fairer, and it's not separating people more. And, to go back to one other point I made, why only acting?
I mean, sure the obvious reason is because, we know the actors more than most of the behind the scenes people, and the above listed reasons why actors should be listed separately since, you can argue that they're not up for the same parts, for legitimate reasons outside their control, but, is isn't the same for behind-the-scenes roles, right?
Well, let's consider. Only four women have ever gotten an Oscar nomination for Directing, only one has won, which is a considerably better record than Cinematography, which has never seen a female nominee, much less a winner in the category. I can think of a few categories where there's a more even distribution of female winners to male winners, Costume Design, Editing, probably, since the early days of cinema actually had quite a few female editors and that tradition has carried on, Casting is often a female-driven field and they don't even get an Oscar category for reasons that make zero sense. Here's two names you don't know, but should. Lora Hirschberg and Anna Behlmer. They're the only two women ever nominated for Sound Mixing Oscars. Behlem has ten career nominations, while Lora has two, and one win. (Yeah, Behlmer is winless she's up there with Greg P. Russell and until last year Kevin O'Connell) That's a category where there's usually three or four people nominated per nomination. Sound Editing has one female nominees, one winner is Cecelia Hall, and half the people in the industry couldn't tell you the different between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing!
(And if you consult this Variety article below on the difference, it makes you realize that they probably need more categories to differentiate the different art form just in Sound alone. )
And you can insert the other examples yourself, across every awards you can think of, and across the whole industry in general if you really want to check the statistics. Now separate all these categories into and male and female and perhaps every other genre, and worst than any of problem of conceding that there's a difference in genders in performing certain tasks and giving into whatever PC bullshit we're giving into for trying to promote women in film or in the name of equality, blah, blah, blah, worst than all that, we'd end with like a nine-hour Oscar broadcast. And that's just the Oscars, god help all the Emmys. So, if you thought award shows were just Hollywood kissing it's own ass before....-, Yeah. I mean, it'd be nice, to see an award for a Female Director, when there's great movies made by female director every year and more of them should be honored, but-eh, no, not like this. Despite all the Hollywood problems with the lack of diversity in general, across the fields and crafts of filmmaking you can imagine, this is probably not the solution either.
But I'd hate to see, in a future, where something like Charlize Theron's performance in "Monster" isn't honored, because she's up against Sean Penn for "Mystic River", or, Nicolas Cage not win for "Leaving Las Vegas" because they really want to give it to Susan Sarandon for "Dead Man Walking". Oh, shit, she'd be up against Sean Penn too in that category, 'cause they both deserved nominations that year. And insert your other favorite retroactive hypotheticals here. I've looked at longform Emmy ballots in the past, and the long, long, long, long, long, lists of actors that submit their names and in what categories they put them in, and doubling that, especially Supporting characters, there'd be 500 or so names total, and only seven nominees? Hell, I'm already annoyed the Emmys insisted on seven series nominees for Comedy and Drama Series, and yet they insist the actors only get six, when there's way more potential acting nominees than series nominees. Hell, maybe that's is, we should just start increasing the nominees numbers, if we do this? Or have multiple winners? Who says we only need one winner every year. There's precedent for that too btw with the Academy; there was an ancient rule where anybody who loss by three votes or less would be a winner too, so, why not bring that back. Or, just have the two top vote-getters win and increase it to ten nominees, gender-neutral?
Or fifteen or twenty, or, hell, do that with every category.
I don't know, what the award shows or the future will look like, nor do I know how long it'll take the rest of society to, become as gender-blind, for all genders everywhere, across all fields of society. And part of me wants to say, that, like George Carlin once brought up, that maybe this is going too far, like how, Businessperson and spokesperson are okay, but personhole cover for manhole cover is a bit too far,... but then again, English is an inherently sexist language to begin, and most of the words of the language come from inherently sexist language, where literally every object is either male or female. (Seriously most western language are very sexist in nature; they just are. I didn't learn much failing four years of French, but conjugate a couple dozen male and female nouns and you'll learn that quickly) And, that's apart of the perception and changes like these are positive.
Look, it's probably in a step in the right direction somehow and Emma Watson's speech, did a pretty damn good job trying to explain the importance of the moment and for the most part, as far as I can tell, while a small factor in the grand scheme of everything, MTV's heart's in the right place and they're trying something, and who knows, what it will lead to in the future. I remember when people laughed at Bill Clinton for doing an MTV Town Hall during the '92 Election, now they host multiple debates every year; they're trend is to be a little ahead of the time for everyone else, so there's that.
As for my awards, I'm not ready to separate yet. Although, lord know what'll happen when I think Laverne Cox deserves a nominations, or some other trans actors. Hell, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Talylor, came damn close just a couple years ago. But that's my insignificant made-up awards, what happens the real, important and culturally significant made-up awards start thinking about this and doing things, who knows? Whatever changes are gonna happen, it's gonna be painful for everyone involved, and that includes the film industry, because change is painful, for everybody, whether it's happening too fast for some, or too slow to those who need it the most.
In the meantime, it's just an award show. They're here to honor and celebrate those who's work we admire, and like the rest of the industry, yes, they're here to entertain us, and dammit we can use as much things to entertain us as possible these days. So let's enjoy them.
Oh, and fuck Piers Morgan! (Mocking) "Oh, when I think gender-neutral, I think Emma Watson", shut up, you tried to hack celebrity cell phones, for your stupid gossip newspaper, go screw yourself! Yeah, and you're the kind of person who I think of to comment on gender-neutrality as well, aren't you? (Eye roll)