Emma Watson's Gender-Neutral Acting Award Is Sparking a Heated Debate

Taylor Henderson

At last night's MTV Movie & TV Awards, Emma Watson took home the Best Actor in a Movie award for her role as Belle in Beauty in the Beast.

In an inclusive move earlier this year, MTV announced they were scrapping the "Best Actor" and "Best Actress" categories in favor of awarding the performance, regardless of gender. Watson is the first winner of a gender-neutral acting award and acknowledged it's importance in a moving speech.

"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," said Watson. "Empathy and the ability to use your imagination should have no limits."

Asia Kate Dillon, a non-binary actor in Showtime's Billions, gave the award to Watson. "This is very meaningful to me—both to be winning the award and to be receiving it from you Asia," Watson exclaimed. "Thank you for educating me in such an inclusive, patient and loving way."

Dillon is currently challenging the gendered categories at the Emmy Awards. When considering an Emmy submission, Dillon was unsure whether to apply under "Best Actor" or "Best Actress" and penned an impassioned letter to the Television Academy: "I’d like to know if in your eyes ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ denote anatomy or identity and why it is necessary to denote either in the first place?"

After an exchange with the Academy, Dillon was allowed to submit under whichever category they wanted and chose "Best Actor" because "actor" originated as a non-gendered word. The contention has ignited a heated debate on why we need separate categories in the first place, with many people claiming PC culture has gone too far. 

Dillon alluded to the controversy in a brief speech before passing the award to Watson. "It’s so cool to be here presenting the first acting award ever that celebrates performance, free of any gender distinctions. Tonight, we celebrate portrayals of the human experience because the only distinction we should be making when it comes to awards is between each outstanding performance.”

Hopefully, the celebration of MTV's decision will push other award shows to remove gender from the equation and judge all actors purely on talent and performance. 

Watch the speech below.


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