Should "Best Actor" include males AND females?

Directors, writers, set designers, etc. are all lumped together when it comes times for Oscars and Emmys. But actors and actresses are separated.

Why is that and is it a good thing?

Well, directors, producers, writers et al can qualify for the same job no matter what gender they are. An actor is going to be cast, I assume, first on gender and then other filters such as comic/drama/action ability, race and body shape.

It stands to reason that if a man has no chance at playing a women’s role, and vice versa, that there should be separate categories for both.

Most movies have a male and female lead. I don’t see why there shouldn’t be two catogories to reflect that. You don’t see the same duality behind the scenes, so there’s no need there for a seperation.

Didn’t a guy once win a Best Actor in the Women’s Category? I’m thinking Crying Game, but maybe it was Boys Don’t Cry…hang on…

Eh, maybe not. I thought I saw that somewhere. Still, I agree it should remain separated.

You might be thinking Linda Hunt, who was Best Supporting Actress for playing a male role in The Year of Living Dangerously. They could have hired a man for the job.

That just doesn’t seem like a very good reason to me, given that there are lots of male roles lots of males won’t qualify for, etc. They couldn’t have cast Spencer Tracy in the Sidney Poitier role in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” but that doesn’t mean that black actors and white actors are separated into different categories.

But aren’t they all doing the same job?
PS: jsgoddess, did I start this? :wink:

You definitely started me down this track, though you and I were just talking about what to call them rather than if they should be judged separately. I almost mentioned you in the OP! :smiley:

Sure you can. It’s called ‘color-blind casting’. It may not have the same impact or make as much sense, but you can do it. It happens quite alot in reginal and local theatre. Especially when you consider that race is not a factor in most characters.

Well, they couldn’t have cast Jimmy Stewart as the football player in Jerry Macguire but they could have cast any young, fit man of any race in that role. But they could not have cast a woman.

I think there’s an expectation of what a lead actor and a lead actress in a film is supposed to be. There are fundamental differences between men and women and I believe they are somewhat magnified in order for a character to be a character and not just a person reading lines.

In some movies, race and age and beauty will have a difference. But it seems to me that the biggest difference between roles - and how a role is written - would be gender.

I think the simple truth of the matter is that if they were combined, an overwhelming majority of the candidates would be male. There are generally more high-profile and better-written parts for males and movies driven by males tend to be more visible and successful, and since most of the craft/“technical” categories are dominated by men (with Costume Design & Make-Up being notable exceptions), this would weight the perceived gender inequality even further to one side.

In the last 5 years, 15 of the 25 Best Actress nominees were from films that had only 1 or 2 total nominations, while only 3 of the 25 were from Best Picture contenders. This suggests that Academy members had to search for movies less popular and/or visible to find a decent slate of nominees to fill out that category.

By contrast, only 8 of the 25 Best Actor nominees were from films that had only 1 or 2 total nominations, while 10 of them were from Best Picture contenders. Generally speaking, their movies were more popular and more visible within the Hollywood community as “Oscar-worthy”.

This is not to suggest male actors are better, or even that those respective groupings were superior for the men, but it does suggest that, in a campaign that perpetually has a hard time convincing Academy members to seek out smaller, more marginal films, the task of them choosing mixed-gender candidates from the most visible and successful films automatically gives men a distinct advantage.

Combining them would not only yield, perhaps, more male nominees, but it also might yield more female winners (proportionally). In a final slate of 5 nominees with 4 dudes and 1 chick, the odds increase dramatically for the single female nominee.

In short, it would be a mess.

In addition to what ArchiveGuy said, giving separate awards for “Best Actor” and “Best Actress” (and for “Best Supporting Actor” and “Best Supporting Actress”) allows them to give out two big, much-discussed awards in place of one, thus increasing the excitement, speculation, and publicity of the Oscars. Combining them into a single award might make more logical sense, but nobody would be better off that way.

Excellent point. “Hey Guys, you know all those movie stars that might win an award on Oscar night? You know–the ones who parade on the red carpet and the reason most people tune in in the first place? Let’s cut that number in HALF!” That would do gangbusters in the ratings.

I agree the logic is not exact, because all roles are not created equal

For example if Rodney Dangerfield plays a jerk in Caddyshack he may be playing a jerk and doing a 100% excellent job of protraying all the characteristics a jerk should have. But he won’t be judged on his ABILITY to act and portray a role, he’ll be judged on the role itself,

In order to be exact all the actors would have to perform the same material. For instance Bette Davis could make a less than stellar role seem brilliant because her acting ability was good, even though the material was bad. I’ve seen other actors take excellent lines and ruin them.

It’s pretty much for the same reason that “lead” and “supporting” roles are separated. They’re all practicing the art of drama, but it’s not all exactly the same job. Also the only award winners most people are going to recognize are the performers, so having just one big acting award would be bad for business.

If only women could write and direct “chick flicks”, or only men could design costumes for male performers to wear, then there’d be some sense in splitting up the various technical categories. But as things are, it’s really just the performers whose jobs are directly affected by their gender. With very few exceptions, only women play female roles and only men play male roles, and again with very few exceptions these are not the same kinds of roles. There have been some movies (e.g. Brokeback Mountain) where it must have been kind of a tough call deciding who was the lead and who was supporting, but almost never could a “leading lady” role have just as easily been played by a man or vice versa.

This isn’t to say that an opposite-sex role would be beyond the abilities of a talented performer – it’s done in the theater all the time – but in most cases it would seem ridiculous to movie audiences. Maggie Gyllenhaal never had a shot at the “Jack Twist” role in Brokeback Mountain, and it wouldn’t have worked even if the character had been called “Jackie” but the script was otherwise unchanged. That role as written was only ever going to a man, and the Academy recognizes this.

And yet Morgan Freemans character in “Shawshank Redemption” was written for an Irish guy, hence the name Red. Trivia: In the movie, they reference this by asking him why is he called Red, he responded “Because I’m Irish?”

I really think that women would not be represented hardly at all if they didn’t divide them. It is no secret that the number of juicy roles for women are few and far between.

We live in a world where a male equivalent of “Dora The Explorer” had to be made because folks were freaking out there little boys wanted to be Dora. (May just be an urban legend but it seems true to me)

According to IMDb’s trivia page, Alien was written with the express intent that all characters could be cast as either male or female.

Have you seen Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

In theory, I agree with the idea that actors of both genders should compete directly as other nominees do. But in reality it’s never going to happen. As others pointed out, the Oscars are just an entertainment event.

My proposal: in addition to the individual awards, there should be an award for best cast.

Not much of an argument. Guess Who? took the same premise and reversed the races (though admittedly then went in a totally different direction, given that race relations have changed somewhat since Poitier’s day).

Either way, the fact that some movies require characters to be a specific race to prove their point doesn’t change the fact that MOST parts can be played by a character of any race nowadays.

Let’s put it this way… How many of Will Smith’s roles are driven by the fact that he’s black? I’d estimate that most of his characters could easily be played by a white man, but do any of them translate well to a black actress (or a white one, for that matter)?

Or to put it another way, would the Poitier role have worked equally well if played by a woman? Doubtful.