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Olivia Colman Vs. Joaquin Phoenix: Awards Season Kicks Off With Gender-Neutral Acting Category

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at October 21, 2021


The long, winding, red-carpet lined road to Hollywood awards season kicked off Thursday when the Gotham Awards for independent film and television announced their nominees for 2021 — including, for the first time ever, gender-neutral acting categories.

Key Facts

It’s one of the first mainstream entertainment awards to shed the industry tradition of distinguishing male and female performances, a move that has been resisted by other major acting awards such as the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys.

The 12 categories were led by nominations for feature films The Green Knight from A24 and Netflix’s highly anticipated The Lost Daughter.

The 10 lead performance nominees include Oscar winners Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter) and Joaquin Phoenix (C’mon C’mon) and other A-listers like Oscar Isaac (The Card Counter) and Tessa Thompson (Passing).

The New York-based Gotham Film & Media Institute announced in August it would combine the best actor and actress awards for film into a single lead performance category and introduce a new category for supporting performances, with up to 10 nominees in each, as well as two new television categories.

It was done in a bid to make the prizes more inclusive for nonbinary performers, who do not identify as male or female and as such have been shut out of traditionally gendered awards.

Crucial Quote

“There are so many talented nonbinary individuals, and it’s not fair to force them into male and female boxes,” the executive director of the Institute, Jeffrey Sharp, told the New York Times in August. “We have a really proud history of inclusivity. It’s part of our DNA. But it was time for us to evolve, too.”

Key Background

The issue of gendered awards categories has been building for years as nonbinary performers have called attention to the exclusion. One of the most vocal critics has been Asia Kate Dillon, a star of the show Billions, who has described the practice of gendering awards as “erasure.” Last year the organizers of the Screen Actors Guild Awards declined Dillon’s request to get rid of gender-specific categories after Dillon wrote an impassioned open letter that appeared in Variety. But the Gotham Awards are not the first large awards to abolish the practice: in 2017 the MTV Movie & TV Awards also made the change to gender-neutral nominees.

What To Watch For

The 31st annual Gotham Awards will be held in person in New York City on Nov. 29.

Further Reading

Gotham Awards 2021: Full List of Nominees” (Variety)

Gotham Awards Won’t Define Acting Categories by Gender” (New York Times)

Nonbinary Performers Say Gendered Award Categories Ignore Their Identity” (NPR)

Why the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys Are Not Ready for They and Them” (New York Times)


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