Hopefully Emma Watson’s gender neutral award is the final straw for gong-giving

Good luck to the 82nd Academy award committee who will be waking this morning to the fresh challenge of making its ceremony future-facing, inclusive and gender-fluid

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The Independent Online

Recent events in celeb-world, both at the MTV Movie Awards and last week’s odious Met Gala, hint of changes afoot in how we celebrate greatness. First let me address MTV who last night awarded Emma Watson a pioneering ‘gender-neutral’ prize for ‘Best Actor in a Movie Role’. This was "very meaningful", Watson said, having beat James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman and other human beings who act irrelevant of their genital appendages or tubing.

In her acceptance speech, Watson was moved to receive "The first acting award... that doesn't separate nominees based on their sex says something about how we perceive the human experience”. Behold the brave new world of non-binary celebrity prize giving. The Oscars, the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes must sure be pressed to follow suit.

Predictably, Piers Morgan was one of the first to flobber his nostrils ungraciously at Watson and her potentially trailblazing sexless gong. Morgan ranted, in a world-gone-mad manner, over several segments on Monday’s Good Morning Britain naming Watson a “worthy recipient”, mocking, it seemed, Watson’s perma-handwringing shtick. His second point had more prescience: “Women will now win a lot less awards because they’ve made them gender neutral,” he said, “As there are more male actors, so actually in trying to get equality you end up with more inequality”.

Here, Morgan is neither right or wrong. But having witnessed dozens and dozens of arguments on non-binary gender or a gender-neutral future, I feel placed to say that almost any discussion on this dissolves rapidly into haywire anecdotal shouting, spurious statistics and mutual accusation that the other is at best evil, or at worse part-responsible for the murders of trans people or the end of humanity. Good luck to the 82nd Academy award committee who will be waking this morning to the fresh challenge of making its ceremony future-facing, inclusive and gender-fluid. Those poor berks this February who gave La La Land the wrong envelope and resigned have had somewhat of a golden bullet.

To unpick Piers Morgan’s comment; it is news to me that there are statistically fewer female actors, but at the same time there certainly are fewer leading roles for females. And while I’d argue that combining male and female lead roles into one category would emphasise that all people regardless of gender can ‘perform’ equally, Morgan is also probably right that what could happen in these cases is that the male actor would win. He’d win because, and I’ll chip in here, he had a meaty lead role in a film statistically more likely to be a box office hit. Plus, when judges – male and female – sit around their oval tables judging books, films, architecture and the like, my long experience is that they will be terrifically positive about the women shortlisted, before giving the prize to man, because ‘on this occasion’ it just felt right. However, perhaps if the Oscars awarded ‘Best non-gendered Actor’ to a man five times in row, the public outrage might be enough to stop this, ergo, thank you MTV.

Piers Morgan’s argument became hazier as he began questioning if the term ‘The Queen’ is offensive before adding that he wanted to smash his own head against a wall. Nevertheless, reactions to Emma Watson’s gender-neutral prize on social media, prove that Morgan only echoes what many feel. But with MTV’s award the seal is broken. The stable doors open and all the gender non-binary horses have bolted. Celebrity award ceremonies have already taken a bashing over recent years for being so white, so political, so corrupt or so dismally focused on the red-carpet frocks and beauty show beforehand. The classiest people nominated for an Oscars these days seem to be the ones like Anohni or Terrence Malick who say thanks then wisely stay home. Is Emma Watson’s award the final straw for gong-giving?

At this point, last week’s Met Gala sweeps into focus as the real future of prize winning. The Met Gala is the perfect, modern day celebrity awards-function in that no tangible, tedious potentially politically-incorrect prizes are doled out at all. At the Met Gala the sole prize is attention, media coverage and Instagram traffic. It is one long evening of red carpet preening, dining table Snapchat-friendly pouting and restroom group-selfies. Along with millions of others, I tracked one of this year’s ‘winners’ Madonna for the entire evening. I watched her pre-show beauty appointment and manicure, her transformation into a camouflage gown, much pouting with its designer Jeremy Scott, her car journey, her big red carpet session, her dinner, her dancing and her car home. Other winners include Rihanna, Katy Perry and Stella Tennant. It is impossible to take offence at the Met Gala as it is so utterly ludicrous. It is a paean to bottomless vanity. No-one is giving much deep thought to ‘perceiving the human experience’ at the Met Gala. A lot of them haven’t tasted a carbohydrate since 2011 and have trouble perceiving which shoe is right and left. Award-giving has got way too difficult these days. Thankfully there’s a whole new generation who will happily do away with the gongs.  

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