The BAFTA nominations were announced recently and while I was reading the list of movies, cast and crew, it made me wonder why most major movie awards still have separate categories for Best Actor and Best Actress. Why are male and female actors not compared together? Acting is not a sport and being good at it does not require a certain physicality, so I see no reason why men and women can’t be judged together. Male and female directors are compared together for a single award so why not actors?
In case I was missing something obvious, I posted this musing on Twitter to my modest number of followers. Fortunately, Casey Liss retweeted my question to his ample following and so a decent discussion started. As expected, a couple of crazies felt the need to point out that men and women are different and that there is nothing wrong with separating them. But fortunately, most people were able to question why this segregation still exists as well.
Many pointed out that the reason is probably to keep the number of individual awards up so the ceremony running time is longer and more adverts can be shown. This is probably the case (and certainly a little depressing), but they could, of course, add new more interesting award categories that don’t involve gender segregation – I liked Stuart Gibson’s suggestion of ‘Best Debut Performance’. A few others suggested that without segregation there is the chance that female actors may get entirely ignored by the ‘traditional’ and sexist Hollywood veterans that decide on the nominees. This could definitely be true as only four women have ever been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and only one has won it, but segregation is certainly not a solution to this problem, it is merely a distraction.
The British and American movie awards already seem out of touch with real movie-goers and this out-of-date gender segregation is surely only making it worse. There may be many more reasons why the separate categories should exist, but I’m fairly certain none are legitimate reasons that we couldn’t find better alternatives to. So I hope that at an award ceremony in the not-so-distant future an award is given for ‘Best Performance’ and I really don’t care if it’s to a man or a woman.