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When MTV presents its annual awards ceremony honoring the best of the big screen this weekend, the newly rebranded MTV Movie & TV Awards will also celebrate the finest performances on the small screen, at least as far as the network’s audience of movie and TV fans is concerned.
Incorporating TV into the MTV Movie Awards was just the first of many changes for this year’s show, which for the first time features gender-neutral acting categories and will honor the Fast and Furious franchise, instead of an individual performer, with the MTV Generation Award.
MTV, VH1 and Logo general manager Amy Doyle says all of this year’s alterations came from the MTV audience’s approach to content.
“Every change we made to this show was designed to reflect the current generation and focus on celebrating the actors, the stories, the moments that defined pop culture over the past year,” Doyle tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The audience is really screen-agnostic. They’re consuming a ton of content across multiple screens. They’re not necessarily making the distinction between TV and movies. They’re as obsessed with TV as they are with the movies that they love, so it just felt like the timing was perfect because that’s how the audience is looking at entertainment and consumption of the content that they love.”
Beyond combining movie and TV nominees in the same category, MTV eliminated gender-based distinctions for its acting awards, a barrier that its more prestigious awards-show counterparts (such as the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes and SAG Awards) have yet to break down.
“Great acting is great acting, no matter what the gender or non-gender,” Doyle says. Again, she argues the impetus for the change was the MTV audience “uniformly rejecting obsolete labels and embracing fluidity.”
“It really was a cultural statement,” Doyle adds of eliminating the male and female acting categories. “And it really is reflective about the audience’s views and when you look at the culture as a whole, you had a man against a woman running for president [last year]. It just felt like a dated construct for a category.”
MTV has leaned into the gender fluidity of their categories, lining up Billions‘ Asia Kate Dillon, who identifies as gender nonbinary, to present the first award.
New categories best American story and best fight against the system (formerly best fight) came from wanting to represent the diversity in MTV’s millennial audience, in which social activism is on the rise, according to Doyle.
“They’re very engaged in political discussions and mobilizing around the issues of importance to them,” the exec says of MTV’s viewers. “And [the best fight against the system award] was a moment where we thought you could make a political statement where, to our audience, politics is pop culture. They’re in the conversation. They’re having the conversation, and they’re engaging around issues that are really important to them.”
MTV also reevaluated the criteria for its Generation Award in choosing to honor the Fast and Furious franchise.
“In the spirit of looking at every category and how we could change and expand the definitions of categories that have become sort of iconic to this particular show, this one being one of them, we felt like, ‘Wait, were we just limiting ourselves by thinking of it as just honoring a solo actor when we could look at a franchise that has had so much longevity and has a huge global fanbase?’ Obviously our audience is huge fans of the stars of this franchise. It just felt like it represents so much of what the spirit of this show is in terms of it being the type of film that our audience loves, the diversity again that it represents,” Doyle says.
The presentation will also honor the Fast and Furious films’ “amazing soundtracks,” with a performance by J Balvin, Pitbull and Camila Cabello of their Fate of the Furious single, “Hey Ma.”
“Even the presentation of [this year’s Generation Award] is going to be different in how we give it away,” Doyle explains. “We also thought about that: ‘How do you do something that isn’t about a montage of the greatest moments from each of the films over the years?’ The films have also had amazing soundtracks, so the spirit of the award is going to be given away during a very big musical moment.”
The MTV Movie & TV Awards’ pro-fan approach is also reflected in the free festival leading up to the awards ceremony, outside of the event’s location at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, giving first-come, first-serve attendees the chance to check out performances, see the stars as they arrive and win tickets to the awards show itself.
“It felt like a no-brainer considering that every change this year to the show came from the fans and the audience and was designed to celebrate not only young Hollywood but also youth culture. We were looking at ways we could extend that celebration,” Doyle says. “It felt natural to build something leading into the show with performances and sneak peeks and appearances by stars that’s going to be elevating the social buzz that’s already happening and create even more excitement going into the show.”
Doyle says host Adam Devine, himself a movie and TV actor, will kick off the awards ceremony with a “huge, over-the-top” opening “that will riff off of Beauty and the Beast,” with some celebrity cameos as Devine “asked all of his friends to participate.” The MTV exec also teases that the show will feature “fun [presenter] pairings,” games and Devine playing to both TV viewers and the in-person, star-studded audience.
“It’s almost like we don’t want to call it an awards show because it really is going to feel like we’re throwing the biggest party for young Hollywood,” Doyle says. “As you’ve seen in the redesign of the iconic popcorn award, it’s a red Solo cup this year, so it might get a little messy, which is OK.”
Going forward, Doyle says the MTV Movie & TV Awards won’t be afraid to reinvent the ceremony based on their audiences’ interests.
“We certainly feel like it’s working for this year’s show, really paying attention to how [MTV’s viewers are] consuming content, their passions, what they’re obsessed about,” she says. “And we’re looking to constantly evolve every year as pop culture changes.”
The MTV Movie & TV Awards will air live from Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
Presenters and attendees expected include Amy Schumer, Emma Watson, Gal Gadot, Goldie Hawn, John Cena, Mark Wahlberg, Martha Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Vin Diesel, Milo Ventimiglia, Chrissy Metz, Ansel Elgort, Allison Williams, Daniel Kaluuya, Trevor Noah, Rebel Wilson, Millie Bobby Brown, RuPaul, Taraji P. Henson and the cast of 13 Reasons Why. In addition to the “Hey Ma” performance, the show will also feature performances from rapper Big Sean and Miley Cyrus’ little sister, Noah. During the broadcast, viewers will be treated to sneak peeks of It, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Transformers: The Last Knight, introduced by respecitve castmembers of the upcoming movies.
Jordan Peele’s horror hit Get Out leads with six nominations going into the fan-voted awards show, followed by Beauty and the Beast with five; Stranger Things and La La Land with four apiece; and Logan, Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Atlanta, Game of Thrones and This is Us with three each.
The preshow festival is set to take place from 2-5 p.m. PT on Sunday and will be live-streamed on MTV.com.
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