MTV has savvily generated awards-show headlines for nearly 35 years now. This year was no different at network’s annual movie (and this year for the first time, TV) awards. What was different was the reason the broadcast made news: it’s elimination of separate gender categories for awards.
Actress Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast, Harry Potter, The Circle) said of winning the inaugural genderless Best Actor in a Movie award, “The first acting award in history that doesn’t separate nominees based on their sex says something about how we perceive the human experience. MTV’s move to create a genderless award for acting will mean something different to everyone but to me, it indicates that acting is about the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. And that doesn’t need to be separated into two, different categories.”
Watson received the award from Orange Is the New Black star Asia Kate Dillon, whom USA Today reports “identifies as gender non-binary.” Watson said to her presenter, “This is very meaningful to me, both to be winning the award and to be receiving it from you, Asia. Thank you for educating me in such an inclusive, patient and loving way. Thank you so much.”
Elsewhere in the awards show, Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome received the Best Kiss award for their gay kiss in Moonlight. Sanders responded, “This award is bigger than Jharrel and I. This represents more than a kiss, it represents those who feel like the others, the misfits—this represents us.”
Several other stories revolving around the elimination or minimization of gender differences emerged this week as well. Oregon is on the verge of becoming the first state to allow its residents to choose “nonbinary” instead of male or female on their drivers licenses. Next up, FaceApp is a new smartphone app that applies selfie filters to make users look older, younger … or like the other gender. Mizz Cracker, a self-described “drag queen,” writes in Slate, “The gender-bending option is one of the most popular among the gay male users in my social media sphere. And to be honest, it’s the filter that has me staring at my iPhone while no one’s looking.” And even though Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is generating box office gold and mostly positive reviews, some are frustrated that Marvel hasn’t clearly included an LGBT character in this franchise, despite hints from director James Gunn that there might be one.
In other entertainment news, some old favorites are preparing for their final bow while others are getting ready for a sequel. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will stage its final show on May 21 in Uniondale, New York. The company has announced it will stream the performance on Facebook Live—perhaps an ironic end for a cultural institution that predates the light bulb.
Something similar may be going on with SeaWorld. As the waterpark tries to downplay its famous killer whale shows in the face of increasing cultural pressure regarding the animals’ captivity, USA Today reports attendance at the parks has dropped significantly, about 15%, in the last year. Animal rights activists see that news as a victory, with PETA executive vice president Tracy Reiman saying in a statement, “As Ringling Bros. circus prepares to shut down this month because of its failure to evolve, SeaWorld could save itself by not fighting a losing battle against the sea change of public opinion and set a plan immediately to move these long-suffering animals to seaside sanctuaries.”
American Idol will be coming out of mothballs next season, this time on ABC instead of its longtime home on Fox. ABC reportedly outbid Fox and NBC for the series’ return. Disney Media Networks co-chairman Ben Sherwood told Entertainment Weekly, “Idol is an entertainment icon, and now it will air where it belongs, in ABC’s lineup of addictive fan favorites alongside Dancing with the Stars and The Bachelor. America, get ready for the return of a bigger, bolder and better-than-ever Idol.”
Controversy may have sunk whales and elephants as entertainment, but it hasn’t taken out Netflix’s much-talked-about teen-suicide series 13 Reasons Why. Netflix has announced the show will return for a second season, even as new research from 2008 to 2015 indicates suicidality and self-harm have doubled during that period of time. “Anecdotally, my colleagues and I had noticed over the last several years that an increasing number of our hospital beds were being occupied by children and teenagers with suicidal ideation and thoughts or had actually attempted suicide,” said researcher Dr. Gregory Plemmons of Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University. Plemmons’ ensuing research was recently presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.
On a brighter note, though, fans still can’t get enough of Tim Tebow, who’s now the nation’s most famous minor league baseball player.