By Thomas Sipos
In George Orwell’s 1984, each edition of the Newspeak Dictionary was thinner than the one before, purging words from the language so as to render crimethink impossible. If you can’t say it, you can’t think it. Feminism has likewise been remarkably successful in purging English of sex specific words. Waiter and waitress are out. Server is in. Steward and stewardess are out. Flight attendant is in.
Yet despite feminism’s success, sex-specific acting awards have proven amazingly resilient. The liberal Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences still presents Oscars for Best Actor and Best Actress, for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
Are these categories sexist? I’ve never known an Oscar recipient to complain. Yet when the Screen Actors Guild introduced its acting award in 1995, SAG said that actor and actress were outdated and sexist terms. The “proper” term was actor, whether that actor was male or female. Thus SAG’s award categories are for Best Male Actor and Best Female Actor.
Most film awards still follow Oscar, but some are following SAG’s example. Australia’s A Night of Horror film festival presents awards for Best Male Performance and Best Female Performance. Are Best Female Actor or Best Female Performance less offensive than Best Actress? I don’t see how. You’re still noting the performer’s sex, despite using more words to do it.
Nor do these newer, PC terms address the increasingly confused concept of gender. How many genders are there now? How do you categorize them for awards purposes? How do you even know what gender any actor identifies as, unless the film comes with explanatory notes for the awards committee? Some people identify as “non-binary” (i.e., having no gender). How to honor a non-binary performer? SAG’s once progressive Best Male Actor and Best Female Actor categories are now hopelessly nonbinaryphobic.
MTV’s solution is to abolish “gender specific categories.” The Associated Press reports [April 7, 2017]:
MTV has scrapped gender specific categories for its upcoming Movie & TV Awards. In place of the Best Actress and Best Actor categories, this year’s awards will honor a non-gendered Best Actor in a Movie and Best Actor in a Show. The move follows the Grammy Awards’ decision in 2011 to dump gender distinctions between male and female singers, collaborations and groups.
This trend has the potential of reducing acting awards by half. Up until now, actors competed against other actors, actresses against other actresses. But now actors and actresses will compete for one award. Yet perhaps importantly, eliminating gender specific acting awards eliminates the notion that men and women, as actors and actresses, each bring something unique to a film. As individuals and in relation to each other (i.e., their onscreen chemistry). There are no actors or actresses, because there are no men or women. We’re all just interchangeable, genderfluid units.
Thomas M. Sipos’s entertainment industry satire, Hollywood Witches, is available on Amazon. His website is http://www.CommunistVampires