April 7, 2017

The eclipse of the actress. When the awards categories are merged, the category will be "actor."

It's already happening at MTV.

The special word for the female actor began disappearing a while back, as if "-ess" is demeaning. We don't say "poetess" anymore.

But does that mean different categories are bad? The roles — other than very minor roles — are almost always written in gendered terms. If a requirement of equal numbers of male and female nominees and an award for both a female and a male were to end, what would happen? Given the kinds of roles that male actors play, I think it's quite likely that they would dominate — not as much as males would dominate in sports if gender separation ended — because they tend to get bigger roles, with a wider range of things they get to show off their powers doing.

Here's the full list of actors who've been nominated for Oscars for leading roles (with the winners identified), and here's the corresponding list for actresses. Try to imagine different years with the categories merged. In 2012, poor Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany Maxwell in "Silver Linings Playbook," would have had to duke it out with Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln.

And think of the fights we'd have to have. We've seen the #OscarsSoWhite criticisms of the unequal treatment of black performers. Obviously, we don't have separate racial categories for the awards, so the disparities show, though they are complicated by the unequal numbers of people of different races in the United States (and the UK). The merging of the gender categories would put disparities in a stark light, given the equal numbers of males and females in the population. There's an expectation of numerical equality, but I don't think that's what we'd see. It might be good to see that disparity and have more conversation about it.

But I think the separate gender categories for the awards are better for women, mostly because movies tell stories and the stories involve gender roles in endlessly complicated ways. We'd be distracted and confused trying to talk about what kind of equality we want, and I think the stories would suffer. Movies are bad enough already. It might be even worse than merging men and women in sports contests. At least in sports it might be possible to measure the competitors in some scientific way and assign them to different classes — weight, muscle mass, etc. etc. You can never do something like that in art.

73 comments:

Mike said...

I agree with Althouse. The effect will be limiting to one or the other sex (not to mention all the in-betweens). Wait a minute. That's probably the driver of this change. Best Female Actor and Best Male Actor are just too binary for categories that range in the hundreds of possibilities, right?

MayBee said...

This is going to be interesting.

readering said...

Actresses have been calling themselves actors for a long time. Check out talk shows from way back. No one will be moving to combine categories, thereby eliminating key advertising tool for thee industry. "Oscar nominated... Golden Globe nominated...."

MayBee said...

MTV's May ceremony will also include a nod to social activism by renaming its Best Fight category to Best Fight the System.

hahahahhahaaha!

exiledonmainstreet said...

I'm surprised nobody has objected to the terms "leading man" and "leading lady." Not that I know of anyway. Now that I think of it, I'm sure someone has.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

It's okay golden years folks.

Stuff changes.

Anywho, when the Oscars also adopt the category "Best Fight Against the System," then you'll be in heaven. So, at least you'll be spared that.


Carry on.

MayBee said...

It's great that it's MTV leading this charge, considering the role they've played in making sure no homely woman can have a real music career any more.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

"It's great that it's MTV leading this charge"

Actually the Grammies did this a while ago.


BTW, speaking of homely, what about that gal who was known to shop at Trooper York's Valise? She's large and successful.

Freeman Hunt said...

Men and women should definitely have separate categories.

Seeing Red said...

Not the smartest move. But one has to learn the hard way.

AlbertAnonymous said...

at least it should shorten the ceremony/awards show telecast....

Rocketeer said...

Why aren't there more professional pilots who are women? You don't see many aviatrixes.

The Godfather said...

Linda Hunt played the role of a man, Billy Kwan, in The Year of Living Dangerously and won the Oscar for best supporting actress. Should it have been best supporting actor?

Paddy O said...

It's interesting to me because this is another indication that the real issue is with the cultural expressions of gender, not the actual gender binary. In other words, people who feel they can't live up to a cultural view of "masculine" feel they have to embrace "feminine", rather than just say there's many ways to be masculine or feminine.

Why does, in this case, the masculine subject of the verb "to act" have more gravitas than the feminine subject of the verb "to act"?" An actress is a woman who acts. An actor is a man who acts.

An actor is just a remnant in English of a masculine ending while actress is the grammatically feminine version. If gender is just a grammatical issue, this shouldn't be a problem at all.

But, of course, English does not have a regular use of grammatical gender. So gender and sex are really definitionally equivalent in English. And the use of the feminine ending is seen as culturally oppressive, precisely because it attributes that ending to past connections with sexism.

Laslo Spatula said...

Black Transgender Actors will now have the Awards in the bag.

I bet Danny Glover will disavow his Cock to get an Oscar.

Even if the movie is another "Lethal Weapon" sequel.

Murtaugh -- now a woman, still married to his understanding wife -- and Riggs will team up once again to stop a Shadowy Conservative Group from selling faulty cocks for transgender surgery.

Also: Mel Gibson will show his new Respect for Jews by making one of the transgenders a Jew who suffered a pork cock transplant.

I am Laslo.

Bob Ellison said...

James Taranto used to refer to Althouse as a "blogress".

Bay Area Guy said...

The Left has twisted itself up in knots on this issue.

1. There many similarities between men and women.

2. There are also some differences between me and women.

3. There is no pressing need to pretend that there are NO differences between men and women.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

How about if we merge the categories, such as best actor & best actress, but then also add some new categories that, while open to both men and women, would likely be dominated by women?

I nominate Laslo to head the commission that chooses the new categories.

Laslo Spatula said...

Riggs: They gave that poor Jewish man a Pork Cock? This shit can't stand!

Murtaugh: Ain't that the truth.

Riggs: It's like something Hitler would have done!

Murtaugh: Ain't much difference between Hitler and these Shadowy Conservative Groups, nowadays.

Riggs: Man, it must be tough, being a Jewish Transgendered Person.

Murtaugh: Try being a Black Transgendered Woman. This shit ain't easy, Riggs.

Riggs: But you still have your cock, though, right?

Murtaugh: Yeah. The wife has been understanding and all, but she wouldn't let me give THAT up.

Riggs: Yeah. I guess if I had a Big Black Cock I wouldn't want to give it up, either.

Murtaugh: Enough of this talking shit. It's Time we give some Social Justice!

Riggs: Damn straight.

Murtaugh: Straight?

Riggs: I'm sorry. I didn't mean that in a 'straight-or-gay' way.

Murtaugh: We'll get that binary thinking out of you yet, Riggs...

Rigg: Does that mean I have to cut my mullet...?

I am Laslo.

MayBee said...

BTW, speaking of homely, what about that gal who was known to shop at Trooper York's Valise? She's large and successful.

I don't know who she is. Was she homely?

I can think of Megan Trainor, who isn't tiny but isn't homely. And Adele, who is beautiful but not tiny. Then there's Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, J Lo. All beautiful, not all especially talented.

Bob Ellison said...

Ignorance is Bliss, or, or, go all the way and do more categories that would make sense:

Crappiest Oscar-Bait Downton-Abbey Wannabe Released in December

Biopic Everyone Claims to Have Seen, but Nobody Did

Best Technical Skills by Everyone Technical on a Terrible Film

Why Bother? It's Got Meryl Streep

Unknown said...

"You don't see many aviatrixes."

Pl. aviatrices?

Earnest Prole said...

Sorry, it’s time to make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. Since gender is an artificial cultural construct, by necessity we must abolish oppressive institutions like women’s soccer teams and the best actress Academy Award in favor of a single inclusive category composed of all genders.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

This delusion that there is no difference between men and women. That there are no roles that are better served by one or the other is destroying our culture, sports and the arts.

Seriously. Men and women play different roles in life and in films. Take Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. The parts are NOT interchangeable. To flip the roles would make the movie ridiculous. To eliminate the female and male actor distinctions is just nuts.

Are we also going to eliminate the categories of Drama, Comedy, Documentary. Right lets have all the types of movies from a Woody Allen satire, to a Shindler's List drama, to a Finding Private Ryan. Make them all the same and pick one.....is the the new normal?

As a consumer of movies, who never goes to the theater and barely watches movies on Netflix, I could not care less about the awards. However, were I an actor/actress or an athlete being forced to compete against men versus women would be very discouraging and completely unfair. Why bother participating?

Marvel, the comics and movies, is learning this lesson the hard way. Their fans, readers do not like the shoehorning into the stories women for diversity. A female version of the God Thor? Are you kidding me. Making a black version of an existing super hero, just to be diverse? As a result their sales and viewership are declining rapidly. GOOD!!!

chuck said...

There are too many words anyway. The government should issue a list of 500 words to constitute "official" English and deprecate the rest. Think of how much simpler dictionaries would be. There are precedents for such actions both in Russia and China after the communists took power. Can the US lag behind such trail blazers? No! the US is the best and should push the boundaries of language reform with a simplification that even the most progressive regimes feared to attempt.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

MayB,

Adele.

My name goes here. said...

Adele is not homely. She is actually quite handsome in the public appearances I have seen.

Think more Joan Baez, Ronnie Spencer (did I remember her name correctly), Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Justin Beeber, or Cindy Lauper.

My name goes here. said...

Oh man Althouse, you are for sure not going to be pleased when they stop segregating athletes by sex.

exiledonmainstreet said...

PB looks forward to a neutered world.

Perhaps in future, sexist clothes like skirts and blouses will be banned and all will dress in gray baggy pajamas just like in Mao's China. It will be SJW Heaven. BTW, Mao was a Chinese dictator who lived before your time.

Roughcoat said...

Inflected/fusional languages are more expressive than non-inflected languages. They provide a wider, richer range of expression. They are, accordingly, capable of greater precision and are ideally suited for poetry, especially epic poems. Ancient Indo-European languages were heavily inflected, to a degree that would seem almost incomprehensibly complicated to modern English speakers. German is still inflected, but not as much as it was, say, two thousand years ago.. The evolutionary trend is to move from inflected to non-inflected. English is almost entirely non-inflected. The use of "actress" is a sort vestigial form of inflection. If we lose it, the language becomes drabber as a result.

tcrosse said...

James Taranto used to refer to Althouse as a "blogress".

A more attractive term is the French 'Animatrice'

walter said...

http://www.taurusworldstuntawards.com

William said...

I like sci-fi movies where the hero saves the world. Ideally, he does this while in the company of a beautiful woman who's awed by his courage and resourcefulness. The beautiful woman is also allowed to show pluck and courage, provided she displays such virtues in a tight t-shirt and remains supportive of the hero. I thought Megan Fox was very good in such a role in the Transformer movies. She had the power to transform an ordinary schlub into a hero because guys are always at their best when trying to impress beautiful women. That's the motive force of civilization. .......Then there's Jennifer Lawrence. So far as I can remember, she was the first woman to save the world using only her martial skills. I thought she was very credible in the Hunger Games, but if this becomes the norm civilization will flounder. It's very important that men make the extra effort to impress pretty women and not the reverse. CIvlization just won't work otherwise.......There were a couple of Hunger Games imitators, but they had nowhere near the success of the Hunger Games. You just don't believe that Shailene Woodley or Mila Kunis are the kind of people you would turn to in the case of an alien invasion. If, however, they wore a tight t-shirt, many men would be willing to go into battle on their behalf.........In her current sci-fi movie, Passengers, I'm glad to report that Jennifer Lawrence takes a step back from her heroine role. On several occasions, the hero rescues her, and she frequently wears yoga pants which are, in many ways, more inspiring than tight t shirts......In this context, it is also useful to mention Amy Adams in the movie Arrival. Amy saves the world from alien invaders but she does this not with martial skill but her maternal insights. In the movie, Amy is the single mother of a sick child. The sorrows of her life have caused Amy to put on a few pounds, but those same sorrows have enabled Amy to develop her nurturing skills to a preternatural degree. Although Amy doesn't once wear a tight t-shirt, she nonetheless, manages to save civilization from alien invaders. She does this by developing a sympathetic understanding of their purposes. .......I think that if given the choice most women would prefer to be rescued by the hero rather than to rescue the hero. Also, they'd prefer to nurture rather than eviscerate alien invaders (if you catch my subtle drift). Thus does sex make sexists of us all.

John said...

The Navy has called Female carrier qualified airplane drivers "Naval Aviators" for as long as they've had them.

NOBODY ever calls them "Pilots". At least not more than once.

Or "Naval Aviatrices"

The Navy also does not have "Mistress Chief" E-9s. Women and men are both Master Chiefs.

Ditto the post office. We used to have a postmistress. Then we had a postmaster and she didn't even have to grow a dick.

Women want equal? Great. No "separate but equal" job categories like actor/actress, or women only schools, sports and so on.

John Henry

n.n said...

First, they conflated life and abortion, character and color, war and adventurism, science and mysticism. Now, they hope to conflate man and woman, son and daughter. We are on a progressive slope.

Rocketeer said...

"You don't see many aviatrixes."

Pl. aviatrices?


Either is accepted. Aviatrixes is actually preferred.

Rick said...

We'd be distracted and confused trying to talk about what kind of equality we want,

This is why I'm for it. Nothing will end the racial and gender beancounters efforts faster than casual fans watching them ruin their hobby and wonder how long it will be until those same beancounters will be at their backyard barbecue.

rhhardin said...

Breasts are important in film roles.

walter said...

Salma Hayek agrees.
We also need an award category for the "stunt partsters". That could give women in the industry more numeric recognition.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

The only actress I ever knew well insisted on "actor," but I don't think she'd like to be lumped in with the men. Besides, she mostly performed in musicals, and there the male/female distinction is definitely not optional. You can (if you must) perform Hamlet with all the genders reversed, but hardly My Fair Lady.

The sports thing is even more -- what's the word again? -- oh, "fraught." Men are stronger and faster, period, outside of a few categories like shooting and extreme distance running. Throw a bunch of FTM transsexuals on to formerly all-cis-female teams and I think you will see people backtracking rather rapidly.

Tinderbox said...

Hollywood is so behind the times. The real injustice is that the Abraham Lincoln role wasn't given to Jennifer Lawrence.

tcrosse said...

My sister was the Executrix of our father's will. Trix are for kids.

Fernandinande said...

exiledonmainstreet said...
I'm surprised nobody has objected to the terms "leading man" and "leading lady."


I object to it because they aren't "leading" anything, they're just actors.

‘How dare you work on whites’: Professors under fire for research on white mortality

Biff said...

Awards should be eliminated altogether. They're so anti-egalitarian. Everyone should collect their participation trophies and go home.

dreams said...

Liberals and their can of worms, liberals lack foresight.

J2 said...

This would be very interesting, but only if there were no requirement of an equal # of male and female nominees. To impose quotas on the front end really muddies the message.

Static Ping said...

Sports and acting are not really the same. If men and women were forced to compete together in sports, there would be few if any women in sports at a high level due to physical differences. It would be the end of women in professional sports.

The Oscars are an award that recognizes excellence in acting. Even if men were advantaged by a combined category and men always won Best Actor, there will still be plenty of female acting roles and plenty of opportunities to make lots of money. Really, the true sign of success in acting is making money and making good movies. The snooty Oscar stuff is more for egos of fragile people than anything else. If the Academy Awards were banned tomorrow all that would do is reduce the number of Oscar bait films that no one wants to see.

The real problem with combining Best Actor and Best Actress is it reduces the number of annually honored recipients by half and would require more creative use of the "Lifetime Achievement" to keep the snippy egos from getting more grouchy than normal.

n.n said...

There are natural, social, and aesthetic imperatives to acknowledge and recognize sex and gender differences in arts in some roles, in some contexts.

Distinguish when there is cause. Discriminate when it is unavoidable.

Drago said...

Bay Area Guy: "3. There is no pressing need to pretend that there are NO differences between men and women."

There most certainly is...assuming your intent is the destruction of societal norms so you can rebuild society from the ground up within a delightful Marxist totalitarian framework.

Robert Cook said...

It's not that "actress" is necessarily demeaning to female actors, it's that it is unnecessary: an "actor" is one who acts, just as a "waiter" is one who waits tables, or an aviator is one who flies planes. The "er" ending does not signify "male." Why use the terms "actress, waitress," or "aviatrix?" (Now that waiters are being called servers, would it make sense to say "serveresses?")

Such terms are arhaic remnants of an older time, when such distinctions may have had some cultural significance.

Robert Cook said...

As for awards, they can always be for "Best Male Actor" or "Best Female Actor."

Problem solved.

jimbino said...

English speakers are totally confused regarding the grammar of their own language. They confuse "gender" with "sex," which is only one kind of gender. They lose specificity when using the singular "they" to refer to either a man or a woman or both.

They lose the ability to master foreign languages. Portuguese has a masculine and feminine form of "two" and one single word for "poet" that can be either masculine or feminine, as indicated by the article, but that has to be specified one way or the other. German gives a young lady a neuter gender and refers to her using the same pronoun you'd use for a thing.

If you want to become an educated person and be perceived as such in most any language, you will be better served by eschewing the current PC-feminism influences in English grammar.

Sebastian said...

"And think of the fights we'd have to have." The fights are the point. This is just another move in the ongoing culture war. Destroying the categories aids in the transvaluation of bourgeois values and concentrating progressive power. The continual dissatisfaction with actual outcomes would fuel SJW anger for years, keeping The Movement going.

Paddy O said...

So English is wrong because it's not another language.

I think that does suggest confusion indeed. Alongside confusing how some words have different derivations that lead to different uses.

It's part of the complexity of English that makes it the lingua franca of the contemporary (educated) world.

Rocketeer said...

English speakers are totally confused regarding the grammar of their own language. They confuse "gender" with "sex," which is only one kind of gender.

As my high school Spanish teacher used to say, "Words have gender, people have sex."

Rocketeer said...

So English is wrong because it's not another language.

I think that's an uncharitable reading. I took his point to be that English has gendered words, too, and that knowing that makes learning and understanding other languages easier. That was certainly the case for me.

Static Ping said...

Robert Cook: As for awards, they can always be for "Best Male Actor" or "Best Female Actor."

Problem solved.


It would solve the problem with sane people, if this was really a problem in the first place, which it isn't. The word "actress" is not the problem. This is secular fanatics trying to destroy the male/female delineation, which they see as heresy. You are whatever you say you are, which could be different a minute ago and can be different again a minute from now, and none of these things need to be objectively true. This is where this leads logically.

On the plus side, logic is definitely not a strength of the SJW crowd.

Jack Wayne said...

Female SJW's push for gender equality. Unexpectedly, women hardest hit.

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roughcoat said...

"It's part of the complexity of English that makes it the lingua franca of the contemporary (educated) world."

English is also more flexible than any other other language. It gobbles up and absorbs foreign words and phrases and readily incorporates them into its lexicon. All languages do this to some extent, whence the term "loan words," but none to the extent that English does it. English generates new words and idioms like a breeding rabbit, and these words and idioms have a tendency to evolve, developing new meanings and pronunciations with amazing alacrity. English is accordingly more capable of expressing new and unusual concepts, e.g. abstract scientific theorems, than any other language. Other languages typically invent neologisms by cobbling together words already extant, a clunky and unsatisfying solution. And THAT is why English is the world language; and, moreover, that is why, when you want to become an educated person and be perceived as such the world over, you must be fluent in English. English is THE language of the imagination, more than any other.

The Godfather said...

If the Oscars eliminate the Best Actor - Best Actress distinction, then they should require the Red Carpet interviewers to ask the men "Who are you wearing?"

Ann Althouse said...

"Problem solved."

But what about the other problem, the one that MTV is fixing?

Beach Brutus said...

I still use "Testatrix" on the Wills I draft.

Jack Wayne said...

I gave blood a couple of days ago and I was asked what sex I was for the first time. I asked if blood knew what sex it was.

Michael K said...

When do the trannies get a category ?

The guy in "Crying Game" was terrific.

Maybe this has been answered. I've been working all day and don't have to energy to read all the comments,

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

"I've been working all day and don't have to energy to read all the comments"

Today we got Doc Mike's ritual sleepy time announcement early.


Carry on.

chickelit said...

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...BTW, speaking of homely, what about that gal who was known to shop at Trooper York's Valise? She's large and successful.

Thank you for that major clue to your alternative identity. Palladian was correct all along.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

" Palladian was correct all along."

That, mostly, goes w/o saying.

chickelit said...

Ann Althouse said...But what about the other problem, the one that MTV is fixing?

It's unclear from your post and the MTV link what the "other problem" is. Unless it's considered a problem to distinguish gender at all. If that's the case, it's just an absurd, first-world problem.

chickelit said...

Gender being a grammatical construct, it's important to note that many actors express primary and secondary sexual character(istics).

"I'm talking about sex, Miss Poste!"

chickelit said...

Anyone else notice a serious decline in the quality of MTV since its heyday in the '80's? It's kinda like SNL.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Poor Jennifer Lawrence would take out Daniel Day-Lewis. Let's remember she was really winning for Hunger Games not Silver Linings Playbook, which was just Hollywood's beard.

Robert Cook said...

"It's part of the complexity of English that makes it the lingua franca of the contemporary (educated) world."

English is the lingua franca of the contemporary (educated) world because it is the language of the current dominant world empire (the USA) and of the dominant world empire that immediately preceded us (Great Britain, on which "the sun never set"). That American popular culture has conquered the world probably also contributes to it.