Giving Emma Watson A Gender-Neutral Acting Award Is Tokenism and Nonsense

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By Jonathan McAloon | 3:51 am, May 10, 2017
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This week the MTV Movie & TV Awards launched a new, gender-neutral “Best Actor in a Movie Role” category, which replaces previous separate awards for male and female actors.

MTV’s boss, Amy Doyle, called it a “cultural statement” in response to her audience “uniformly rejecting obsolete labels and embracing fluidity”.

“Great acting is great acting, no matter what the gender or non-gender,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.

Emma Watson won the gong for her performance in Beauty and the Beast. Which says it all, really.

The award was presented by Asia Kate Dillon, herself seen as the first gender-neutral actor to be cast in a major TV show, Billion.

Watson won for playing a definitively non gender-fluid Disney Princess

We should celebrate “performances free of gender distinctions,” she said, so that “work can stand on its own.”

But Emma Watson’s win doesn’t do that. It is quite clear that the award has little to do with her work on-screen, and everything to do with her gender activism in the real world.

This is surely an own goal for MTV, and detrimental to other actors.

Emma Watson, who played a decidedly non gender-fluid Disney princess, beat out any number of unusual or otherwise excellent performances. What good does this do for anyone?

Watson’s post-Harry Potter fame, along with her use of this platform to voice her political views, has cemented her position at the pinnacle of Hollywood cultural elitism.

I personally admire Watson for using her influence to further her beliefs. But giving her an award basically for turning up looks smug.

Desperate to appear unconventional and broaden its horizons, the MTV Awards instead looks like cozy club, insular and self-important.

The best thing Watson could have done for all parties was not accept the award.

Watson herself praised the award for its decision to celebrate portrayals of “human experience”. The panel’s decision to give it to a Hollywood blockbuster about talking clocks and candlesticks can only undermine that ambition.

Had the recipient of the award been a worthy performance, MTV’s move wouldn’t smack of tokenism in the way it so obviously does.

A gender-neutral acting award could be a useful idea. But award it for acting.