Gendered acting categories should end at Oscars, Emmys

Emma Corrin Gendered Acting Categories

Emma Corrin plays Princess Diana in season four of “The Crown.” Corrin, who is nonbinary, has spoken out against gendered acting categories. Photo: Netflix.

It’s time for the Oscars and Emmys to eliminate gendered acting categories.

They are a “sexist Hollywood relic” and unfair to nonbinary actors.

That’s the opinion of the Los Angeles Times in an editorial published Wednesday.

The Times points to several awards competitions that have ended the use of gendered categories: the Grammys, the MTV Movie and TV Awards, Film Independent’s Independent Spirit Awards, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

“It makes sense for every awards organization that still uses it to scotch this outdated categorization,” the Los Angeles Times editorial board said. 

“Why shouldn’t performances by all actors, regardless of gender designation, be judged together? They all work together in a movie or TV show. And the categorizations don’t fit every performer.”

It’s not the first time the topic has been raised. Actor Ser Anzoategui, who starred in the groundbreaking Starz series “Vida” and identifies as nonbinary, brought up the issue in a 2019 editorial for the Times.

Two years later, they suggested a nonbinary actor award in a guest column for Deadline.

More recently,  Emma Corrin, who is nonbinary and played Diana, Princess of Wales, in season four of Netflix’s “The Crown,” also has spoken out against gendered acting categories.

Before coming out as nonbinary, Corrin was nominated for an Emmy in the female acting category for playing Diana.

The Times editorial, however; stressed that “gender neutrality does not mean gender equality. Although progress has been made toward parity, men still get more substantial acting roles than women do, and in the type of films that usually win awards.

“The last thing we would want to see are nongendered acting categories full of male nominees and winners,” the Times said.

“Keeping gendered award categories is not a solution to the problem” of gender inequity, said Josh Welsh, president of Film Independent, according to the Times. “The change needs to come with diversifying the gatekeepers who make decisions about what films and shows get financed and marketed.”

The editorial recommends the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that produces the Oscars, should expand lead and supporting acting categories to 10 actors each and give two awards in each category.

The Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, which awards Emmys in 18 gendered acting categories, should find a similar solution, the Times said.

“It’s past time to get rid of these categories — and we believe that awards shows can smartly lay out a plan to do that,” the Times said.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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