Sunday’s MTV Movie and TV Awards received lots of attention for the gender-neutral acting award it presented to “Beauty and the Beast” star Emma Watson, although it was not the first time an awards show had gone that route — or even the first time that MTV had given out an acting award for which both men and women could compete.
And if history is any indication, any further move to non-gender-specific acting awards could run into real problems unless it’s accompanied by an increase in the number of prime roles for women.
At least that’s the conclusion you could draw if you look at statistics from three awards shows that have gone with unisex categories in the past. Almost invariably, those categories have been dominated by men.
The Television Critics Association’s TCA Awards, for instance, has had Individual Achievement in Drama and Individual Achievement in Comedy categories since 1996 – and in that time, 67 percent of the nominations and 69 percent of the wins have gone to men.
Overall, 71 men and 32 women have been nominated for the TCA’s drama award, with 14 men and 5 women winning; 67 men and 35 women have been nominated for comedy, with 13 men and 7 women winning.
The ratio has been improving recently: In the last five years, women have outnumbered men in comedy, though not in drama. But over the last 20 years, 67 percent of all the nominations and 69 percent of wins have gone to men.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) is not gender-specific with its annual Rising Star Award, and it attempts to achieve some kind of parity. But even so, nominations have gone to 33 men and 27 women, and the winners (which are voted on by the public) have been male nine times in 12 years.
And MTV has gone down this road before, too, though it hasn’t been consistent. The MTV Movie Awards (Now the MTV Movie and Television Awards) had a unisex Best Breakthrough Performance category from 1992 through 1998. This was was split into separate male and female categories for seven years, but went back to a merged category in 2006.
This category have been by far the best at nominating equal numbers of men and women, though men have a slight edge at 49 to 44. Women have actually won more often, though, taking 10 of the 17 awards.
But in MTV’s Best Comedic Performance category, which has always been non-gender-specific, the numbers are very different: 95 male nominees and 21 male winners, but only 20 female nominees and three winners.
The bottom line: In the five non-gender-specific categories that have been handed out by the TCA, BAFTA and MTV, men have hogged two-thirds of the nominations and 70 percent of the wins.