Posted at 1:24 PM Feb 18, 2010
By Andrea Grimes
Today on NPR.com, Bob Mondello wonders if we should make the Oscars gender-neutral. As in, should we put men and women on the same emotive playing field in the acting categories?
The answer to his question (yes) seems a little obvious to me, but I'm not exactly what you'd call a movie buff. (Give me good television, or give me death!) I feel the same way about the Oscars as I do about Olympic curling--I'm not all that interested, but all the same, I can't really think of the point of separating male and female competitors. Mondello, however, predicts some resistance to his plea:
Nobody separates best director from best directress (directrix?), or best editor from best editress, so why best actor and best actress? Combine them, and let the best "performer" win.
Seriously. Colin Firth versus George Clooney isn't half as intriguing a match-up as the brawl of-the-drawls you'd get if The Blind Side's Sandra Bullock were allowed to compete with Crazy Heart's Jeff Bridges. Imagine Meryl Streep's Julia Child going up against Morgan Freeman's Nelson Mandela -- now that'd be a contest.
Yeah, yeah, I can just hear the objections to combining categories: Men get all the roles; they're higher paid; their pictures have bigger budgets. Well, let me concede most of that, but also let me note that these are new developments.
The academy's original logic for separating the acting awards by gender was probably that if they hadn't done so in Oscar's early years -- the 1920s and '30s -- the men would've watched as Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo walked off with all the trophies. Take 1935: It was such a good year for the likes of Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Merle Oberon and Claudette Colbert that the academy had to add a sixth slot in the best actress category.
I mean, I'm going to take Mondello's word for it because, again, movies are not my thing. Mondello adds that the playing field has certainly shifted in favor of dudes, but also that they don't often get to play hyper-emo, challenging roles (ahemm, women's roles), and apparently those are the ones that win Oscars. Which I guess would make it overall more difficult for men, if they get fewer of those roles and the ladies get a bunch of them. Or something. Ugh, somebody who's been to a theater more than twice in the past year, help me out, here.
In the end, Mondello says there's no way, for example, any male nominee could compete with Mo'Nique's turn in Precious--one of the only Oscar-contending films I saw this year. (Blame it on fellow Doll Susan. We thought we'd have a lady-bonding night out. Instead, we just had to get hammered at three different bars to get Precious' story out of our minds.)
And so heartily I say: go Mo'Nique!