Should the Oscars go non-binary?

MTV Movie and TV Awards in an astute publicity move combined their Best Actor/Best Actress awards into a non-binary award for Best Actor whatever the gender (won bizarrely by Emma Watson for Beauty and the Beast but then this is MTV).

Should Oscar and the other award ceremonies follow suit? It does seem a trifle passé to be awarding prizes by gender, after all what difference does it make whether a man or woman is playing a role? Both are acting and both should be judged equally. I’m not going to hold my breath though, actors going along with this would be like turkeys voting for Christmas, suddenly their chances of an Oscar would be cut by 50%.

First, I agree that there is nothing magical about dividing the acting categories into male and female. We don’t have best male/female directing or cinematography awards, after all.

On the other hand, I like having more than one performance (or two counting supporting roles) recognized. I suppose you could steal a page from the Golden Globes and select “Best Actor in a Dramatic Role” / “Best Actor in a Comedic Role” – that would certainly open up the range of performances since comedic roles are generally overlooked (leaving Marisa Tomei aside).

I don’t think it will ever be changed, though. It’s got 80+ years of inertia behind it and although today some in the industry will recognize the distinction between genders as antiquated, it hasn’t actually risen to the level of offensive for the vast majority. And of course SAG is not going to want to cut the number of trophies in half.

It could well turn out that the number of awards would turn out to be unbalanced gender-wise (for example more males winning)–and this would result in lots of complaints of gender discrimination.

For AMPAS, there would be logistical and financial problems with this policy.

Logistical is–how do you select the nominees? Do you set a gender quota for each, or do you just have it be a free-for-all to who gets the most votes for the final ballot. This would risk, say, 6 men and 2 women on the final ballot. Or 7 men & 3 women.

Plus, how many nominees would there be? 8? 10? 5 seems brutally exclusionary. But a larger slate means that you could win an Oscar with as little as 12% of the vote. It would certainly make predicting more challenging, but also lowers the bar for reaching a plurality.

Plus I suspect the final winners would skew heavily male, because (a) the industry is heavily male, and (b) far more male actor winners come from Best Picture nominees than female ones do, which means that any performer up against a larger slate is going to benefit even more from the “coattail” effect of rewarding films across the board which members like in general.

The financial toll is that fewer actors nominated means fewer stars on the red carpet and fewer films to market as “Oscar-winner” or “Oscar-nominee”. The industry itself would definitely have an issue with that, and unlike the MTV Awards or Golden Globes or a variety of critical bodies, the Oscars are all industry professionals. So the likelihood of changing things in this direction is incredibly tiny. They have nothing to gain from it and lots to lose.

Other than that the ship of gender equality is yawing toward Equality! so hard it’s about to roll over, I can’t see any reason to combine genders for acting awards. Men and women are different, you see, and play different roles differently, and recognizing the best in each category - regardless of what criteria are used - makes sense except in this overheated uber-PC time.

I would support it. But look at the past few years Best Actor/Actress awards and choose who would have probably won had there been no divide., say 5 men and 5 women are nominated.

Casey Affleck v Emma Stone

Leonardo DiCaprio v Brie Larson

Eddie Redmayne v Julianne Moore
Matthew McConaughey v Cate Blanchette

Daniel Day Lewis v Jennifer Lawrance

Jean Dujardin v Meryl Streep

Random thoughts -

If you were to just shove them all into one bucket, but still have quotas, then you are really not solving anything - where do you categorize a non-binary gender performer?

If you don’t shove them all into one bucket, then do you carve out separate categories for non-binary gender performers? Seems that the numbers are so small that you would be over-honoring performances (hey, we only had 5 total this year, everyone gets a nomination!) How would we handle a cis-gender performer playing a non-binary character (other than twitter outrage)?

Again, if we keep to the separate bucket idea, why not separate categories for people of color? Why not for “youth performers”, “senior performers”? and on and on and on…

There is not a doubt in my mind Streep and Blanchett both win, and Affleck vs. Stone is a coin flip. I’m not even totally convinced Redmayne beats Moore, who was widely seen as due.

That said I wholeheartedly agree the possibility men would dominate the awards is e reason they keep the awards separate (well, that and the fact that then they have 4 acting awards; actors will never agree to change the rules to have just two.)

Also Kevin Kline, Jack Palance, Alan Arkin, John Gielgud, Geena Davis, Mira Sorvino, Jessica Lange, Cuba Gooding, and George Burns. Also Dianne Wiest. Arguably Whoopi Goldberg. Christopher Plummer, and Melvyn Douglas, too.

I would see Streep over Dujardin and Moore over Redmayne. Everything else, even though I loved Brie Larson in Room, I think the men would get it.

Even if we grant that those were all comedic roles, that’s still a small fraction of the total number of awards.

No. The concept of “actor” and “actress” is as old as theater itself, dating back to when women were actually allowed on the stage to play female parts.

More importantly, they are not interchangeable. A male set designer or foley editor can get sick or die, and a female set designer take his place, and the change will be invisible to the audience, whose perception is the only one that counts. But except for rare and notable cases (Peter Sellers , Linda Hunt), male and female characters pretty strictly delimit the function of actors and actresses.
Also, political correctness would rear its ugly head, and demand that it’s a “female actor’s turn” to win the award, regardless of merit.

I’ll play Devils’ Advocate here and say I really don’t see why they shouldn’t re-jig the awards to a non-gendered format. It’s pretty trivial to come up with enough categories to keep the same number of awards and still honour excellence irrespective of gender. Eddie Redmayne and Tilda Swinton come to mind off the top of my head as turning in Oscar worthy performances over thier careers and I’m sure there are many others.

I always used to feel that gendered acting awards were stupid . . . but thinking about it, as long as the types of roles/opportunities presented to those who present as male or female are different, then I think it might make sense to have unique assessment criteria by gender.

That said, I’m one of those who finds industry awards and the pomp and circumstance associated with them to be . . . less than meaningful.

Really? You don’t like to see a bunch of pampered, ego-obsessed, folk pat each other on the back and tell each other how brave, bold and innovative they are?

I prefer seeing two great acting roles recognized.

Awarding one to to each gender ensures that happens.

It’s already hard enough to pick a winner. There’s often a strong argument to be made for various roles.

It would be excruciating to tell Meryl Streep that her performance as Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady wasn’t as good as Jean Dujardin, in The Artist. Both roles deserved to win and be honored in 2012.

I’d hate to tell either actor that new rules denied them a win.

No. It’s an idiotic idea that has absolutely no good reason behind it. There is no “problem” that will be solved, instead it would do nothing but create controversy.

Note that as of this year, this is no longer a theoretical question. There is an hour-long drama series on Showtime called Billions and one of the characters in the season that ended last night identifies as non-binary gender as does the performer who plays that character. So if Asia Kate Dillon is nominated for any acting awards, this will be an issue.

Which, as I deduce, is an example of why this discussion came up.

Part of the problem is being obsessed with “the best”. You could do like the Olympics and offer Gold-Bronze-Silver (all medalist are acclaimed), or even offer Best Actors-- that is, the top 3 or 5 actors (men or women) in a given category.

I’m still not sure it’s an issue. Let’s say Asia Kate Dillon is nominated for an Emmy for her (his? their? I don’t know Asia’s pronoun of preference) work on Billions. I’d imagine the studio would have to select which existing category to put the nomination into – just like when deciding if a performance is a lead role or a supporting role, or if The Martian is a drama or a comedy. It comes down to which category the studio thinks gives the actor a better shot at winning. Perhaps unfairly, Asia might have an advantage by qualifying for either category.