Emma Watson, best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, received the first gender-neutral MTV TV and Movie Award last evening for her role as Belle in Disney’s live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. “MTV’s move to create a genderless award for acting will mean something different to everyone,” Watson explained in her acceptance speech. “But to me it indicates that acting is about the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and that doesn’t need to be separated into two different categories.”
Watson, who is an avid feminist and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, beat out Hugh Jackman and James McAvoy for the prize saying that the network’s decision to make the award genderless made her win even more meaningful. Presented by actor Asia Kate Dillon, who identifies as non-binary, Watson celebrated the prize for what it meant to actors everywhere. “The first acting award … that doesn’t separate nominees based on their sex says something about how we perceive the human experience,” she said.
While MTV isn’t the first to do away with gender-specific awards — the Grammy Awards stopped categorizing their prizes as male and female in 2011 — MTV is the first to award gender-neutral prizes to actors. Vanessa Whitewolf, the co-executive producer of the show, explained to MTV News before the show aired that the changes to the program were driven in large part by the fans who vote for the awards. “[Young viewers] just love good performances,” Whitewolf said, “They don’t care if it’s coming from a male or a female. Gender doesn’t really have anything to do with it.”
In addition to her personal win, Watson’s film Beauty and the Beast also took home the award for movie of the year. “I think I’m being given this award because of who Belle is and what she represents,” said Watson. “The villagers in our fairytale wanted to make Belle believe the world was smaller than the way that she saw it, with fewer opportunities for her. I love playing someone who didn’t listen to any of that.” See highlights of her acceptance speech in the video below.
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