MTV is shaking things up this year. Last month, the network announced its plans to honor television shows at its annual MTV Movie Awards, renaming the program the MTV Movie & TV Awards. Now, MTV is ditching its gendered acting awards, merging the “Best Actor” and “Best Actress” categories into one.
The move seems to be a step toward gender equality in an industry that’s repeatedly been lambasted for its treatment of women. It also creates gender-neutral categories where non-binary and genderqueer actors can be recognized without having to identify as either male or female.
MTV president Chris McCarthy sees the introduction of gender-neutral acting awards as modernizing an “antiquated” system.
“We have to constantly be pushing ourselves to not only respond to culture but lead it,” McCarthy told CNNMoney. “If we’re going to do an award show that celebrates content, why would we not modernize what that looks like?”
The updated “Best Actor in a Movie” category will see Taraji P. Henson and Emma Watson square off against the likes of Hugh Jackman and Daniel Kaluuya. Similarly, the “Best Actor in a Show” category places Donald Glover in direct competition with Emilia Clarke, Gina Rodriguez and others.
The debate over whether or not to divide performance awards by gender has intensified in recent years. The Grammys revamped its gender-based categories in 2011, creating unisex awards like “Best Pop Solo Performance.” But while many view the division of awards into male and female groups as unnecessary, others feel the result of merging these categories would be less recognition for female actors.
The discussion is particularly heated when it comes to the Oscars, where women are repeatedly overlooked in unisex categories like Best Director.
“[Gender-neutral categories] would be catastrophic,” awards expert Tom O’Neil, the founder of prediction site Gold Derby, told HuffPost in 2016. “The male bully dominance of the Motion Picture Academy would be all the worse, because it would be consistently apparent in the results of the winners.”
But as far as the MTV Movie & TV Awards go, women seem to have received their share of recognition in the unisex acting categories. The “Best Actor in a Movie” category has three male and three female nominees, while the “Best Actor in a Show” category has two male and four female nominees.
See the full list of nominees here. Adam Devine will host the MTV Movie & TV Awards on May 7.