Indie Spirit Awards Go Genderless as Trophy Season Sees Big Changes

Are the Globes gone? Are acting honors going genderless? For the first time in years, awards season is changing it up big time

Until the pandemic, there had been few changes to Hollywood’s major awards shows in years, outside of some going host-less. Then, with COVID, came social distancing, awards acceptances via zoom, cancelled parties, etc. But with cancel culture reaching a crescendo, it was only a matter of time till award shows went woke in one way or another.

First, it was the implosion of the Hollywood Foreign Press and its Golden Globe Awards—kicked off by stories in the Los Angeles Times in 2021 accusing the group that launched the Globes of racist behavior, misappropriating funds, sexual harassment, even harassment of stars during interviews. As a result, the show was cancelled last year by NBC, with the HFPA forced to reorganize, add diversity to its membership, new leadership—and it’s still unclear if NBC and Hollywood’s Publicist Guild will relent on their complaints, allowing the Globes to be broadcast in 2023. Many in town believe there’s too much money at stake—in tourism, hotels, catering, stylist, hair and makeup fees —for some compromise between the parties not to be reached.

While it’s seemed like the Hollywood Foreign Press was the only statue-anointing group mired in awards show turmoil, there’s a new contender in that ring: the Hollywood Critics Association, established in 2016. Its membership, made up of mostly young writers from indie outlets, has given out annual awards in both film and television since. But The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg just broke the news that the president of HCA and nine other members just resigned over allegations of financial and ethical conduct in its ranks.

The group made its own nominations, then was dependent on movie studios buying tables to cover costs. There’s been the kind of catty name-calling and accusations made among members that makes the HFPA seem almost—almost—civilized. Will the HCA, formerly known as the Los Angeles Online Critics Association, survive? And if it doesn’t—will anyone even notice?

But the biggest change in Hollywood’s awards show game is the turning of the tides toward genderless acting categories.

Since actors and actresses have morphed into the simple one-word nomenclature of “actors” in the media, it seems some now consider separate male and female acting award categories to be regressive. Of course, there’s many years of tradition to consider. And the fact that splitting prizes between genders means more people can win. But the world, especially on the subject of gender, is changing very quickly.

September 12’s upcoming Emmys will showcase dozens of categories for actors, carefully divided between comedy and drama, series and tv movies—and still between male and female performances. But this practice could wind up obsolete within a few years. Or even months.

The genderless category movement started gaining steam last week when the Film Independent Spirit Awards announced that its March 2, 2023 awards show will move to gender-neutral acting categories in both the film and television genres.

Film Independent President Josh Walsh announced, “We’re thrilled to join the other festivals and awards shows that are already moving to celebrate great acting without reference to gender.  We’re also happy to welcome non-binary performers into the Spirit Awards without forcing them to choose to identity as male or female.”

Film Independent isn’t the first awards organization to make this call. Other awards shows that are heading toward genderlessness include the Grammys, the Gotham Awards, the British Independent Film Awards and the MTV Movie and TV Awards. When it comes to acting, the categories at the Spirit Awards will now be known as “Best Lead Performance” (ten nominees), “Best Supporting Performance,” (ten nominees) whether in tv or film, comedy or drama, series or tv movie. There will also be a “Best Breakthrough Performance” award for five nominees.

The downside: only half the number of normal winners will take home Indie Spirit Awards statues next year. It’ll be interesting to see how this resonates with nominated actors—whose salaries and opportunities shoot up when they win, not to mention all the publicity that goes with it.

And what about the Oscars? Last week, new Academy of Arts and Sciences CEO Bill Kramer spoke to reporters about the 2023 Oscars (March 12, 2023), and, given the Spirit Awards announcement, was asked if the Oscars might adopt gender-neutral acting categories.

“We are conducting diligence on that,” said Kramer, “but there’s no play right now to activate that.” However, one thing he did confirm: a single celebratory Oscar host. “A host is very important to us. We are committed to having a host on the show and already looking at some key partners on that.”

Slap victim Chris Rock has just revealed that he passed on the opportunity to host the awards extravaganza for a third time.

Speaking of awards—and who isn’t right now?—the Telluride Film Festival, the first gathering (outside of Cannes) for critics and media to see the season’s awards’ worthy films, kicks off Friday, September 2, and the Venice Film festival opened on Wednesday, starring a heavy lineup of awards season “important” movies, such as Noah Baumbach’s White Noise and Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, both of which have a lot of buzz and buzz-worthy stars.

Let the award games begin.

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