It’s been a quarter-century since the invention of the golden popcorn award created a cultural touchstone. When MTV created its movie and TV awards, a generation of teens and young adults found a version of the Emmys they could actually connect with. At least, that was the idea. And, to a point, the formula worked. The MTV movie awards were every bit as erratic, irreverent and compelling as the network’s content. And it had a very clear audience. As censors recoiled in horror, MTV fans reveled in having an awards show to call their own.
Whether it was new “categories” such as “Best Shirtless Moment” or “Best Kiss”, or car wreck compelling moments like Tom Cruise, as his Tropic Thunder character, Les Grossman, dancing with J-Lo, or the time Sasha Baron Cohen descended on Eminem clad in a thong, the MTV Movie and TV awards made its target audience laugh and gave the censors the vapors.
Were some of those “surprise” moments actually scripted? Sure, but, following the theme of pro wrestling, it was entertaining for its core market, so much was forgiven. Now, though, the network and its signature awards show are making a socio-political statement that is drawing a line in the sand and setting the stage for a culture clash between MTV’s movie awards and the bigger, older awards shows.
MTV is jettisoning genders in its awards. Forget best actor and best actress… These awards will now be offered in a single category, as the show is following on the cusp of the social justice movement by stepping away from gender-specific accolades.
There’s no word if this is a one-year publicity driver or if the show’s producers plan to keep this alive. Will it inspire the rest of Hollywood to follow suit? Hard to say…
And that’s not the only nod to the SJM. MTV also announced new categories including “Best Fight Against the System,” which replaces the apparently antiquated “Best Fight” award. Producers said their goal was to always be a cultural leader. They want to respond to what’s happening, but also be at the forefront of cultural change.
Perhaps the most controversial move, though, is a nod to the shift in how people consume media. TV and Movie categories are also being combined, which means Game of Thrones and This is Us will square off against Moonlight for “Best Tearjerker.” Is it fair to pit movies against TV shows? No one is asking. MTV just looked at how its audience is watching media these days and made what they see as a logical choice. Younger people don’t really differentiate cinema and TV the way older generations do, so why should MTV? That, at least, is the thinking.
Will these changes lead to bigger ratings, or will they flop with viewers who would rather see a more traditional awards show? Time will tell. But the odds are in favor of whatever creates the biggest spectacle because that’s what MTV has always done best. And bonus points if it freaks out your parents.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.