MTV Movie & TV Awards: Stars Praise Network for Moving the "Pop Culture Needle Forward"

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Asia Kate Dillon

"The culture at large is starting to accept the fact that gender is a spectrum and that we need to be celebrating performances free of any gender distinctions, so that the work can stand on its own," Asia Kate Dillon told THR on the red carpet.

The rainy weather on Sunday night didn’t stop the fun for the stars of the MTV Movie & TV Awards, held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Hosted by Workaholics comedian Adam DeVine, this year marked big changes to the network’s iconic show. For the first time ever, television was recognized alongside films, and categories were altered to become gender-neutral (for example, actors and actresses competed against each other for both movie and TV show categories).

On the red carpet before the ceremony, known for its fun and unconventional quirks, the stars were quick to applaud MTV for making the changes that many said they believe are needed to all award shows.

MTV’s Teen Wolf star Tyler Posey said he believes the network refrains from abiding by the rules and is known for taking risks that many may not be willing to take.

On the red carpet, Posey told The Hollywood Reporter, “MTV is always progressing themselves and pushing the envelope, and I think this is the first time that an awards show has done something like that. MTV is always the first one to do something unique and special, and I think they’re just following suit with what they do. And this means a lot to a lot of people nowadays, so why not?”

Ready to celebrate the success of his Netflix series 13 Reasons Why and the announcement of a second season, star Justin Prentice felt that the new categories were a positive step.

“I think that it’s a different world that we live in," he told THR, "We are headed towards an egalitarianism world, where it’s equality for all. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a great first step. There’s a long way to go, but they’re [MTV] making great strides.”

On hand to present the first gender-neutral categorized award was Billion breakout star Asia Kate Dillon, who is also recognized as the first non-binary identifying actor to be cast on a major television show. Honored to be a part of MTV’s groundbreaking change, Dillon applauded MTV for having a conversation engaged and acknowledged in a rule-stricken society.

“The culture at large is starting to accept the fact that gender is a spectrum and that we need to be celebrating performances free of any gender distinctions, so that the work can stand on its own,” Dillon told THR. “I’m really proud of MTV for continuing to do what they’ve always done best, which is move the pop culture needle forward, which extends to culture at large and creates visibility and representation in a time when it’s so, so needed.”

Dillon added that while MTV is an entertainment-based network, it has played a big part in pushing the conversation forward about many topics.

“MTV has figured out a way to have a masterful blend of entertainment and education. People get to watch and see their favorite artists partying and having a good time, but I think that there is always a larger cultural message,” said Dillon.

Fargo star Mary Elizabeth Winstead shared similar thoughts, saying she viewed the new categories as something that reflects the current societal climate. “I think that it’s reflective of what’s happening in the world and in our society and culture, which is embracing every sort of part of everyone and fluidity and open-mindedness. I think it’s really fantastic that MTV is going on a limb and making those changes," she said.   

Michelle Vissage, judge on best reality competition winner RuPaul's Drag Race, said the categories may make people realize that they have the ultimate freedom to identify as they wish and that opinions should be disregarded. “In this day and age, gender is fluid. You may identify as woman. You may identify as man. You may identify as ‘they,’ ‘them,’ whatever the choice is. It’s your own body. It’s your own choice," she said.

During the show, stars used their acceptance speeches as an opportunity to acknowledge MTV’s willingness to break the boundaries and identify with the struggles society faces over equality and acceptance.

Taking home the award for best actor, Beauty and the Beast star Emma Watson couldn’t accept the award without describing her emotions over the category change.

“The first acting award in history that doesn’t separate nominees based on their sex says something about what we perceive the human experience. MTV's move to create a genderless award for acting will mean something different to everyone,” she told audience members. “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."

After receiving the award for best kiss, Moonlight stars Ashton Sander and Jharrel Jerome felt pride winning an award over a kiss shared between their two gay characters.

"I think it is safe to say that it is okay for us young performers, especially us minority performers, to step out of the box,” Jerome told audience members.

Sharing the same sentiment, Sanders added, “This award is bigger than Jharrel and I. This represents more than a kiss, it represents those who feel like the others, the misfits, this represents us.”

On hand to celebrate the kudocast's afterparty, MTV + Toyota C-HR Present: One Night of Mischief, Pretty Little Liars star Shay Mitchell applauded MTV for straying from the traditional gender norms set by other award shows. Playing an openly gay character on her Freeform show, Mitchell told THR that she felt like the change was much needed and is what people should truly focus on. 

“I just think that it’s so important," she said. "Let’s talk about the performance and not so much the sex. Why does that matter? It does not matter at all. I think with this now, we can focus on the performance, which is what we should be talking about.”

Following suit with the show being a show of firsts, The Fast and the Furious was the first franchise (rather than an individual) to win the Generation Award, with stars Vin Diesel, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster on hand to accept.

During the show, the audience enjoyed performances from Noah Cyrus, Big Sean and J Balvin, Camilla Cabello and Pitbull.

Winners were selected from fan voting conducted online. 

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