A tongue-in-cheek Chris Rock wasted no time tackling the awkward lack of racial diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees. “Welcome to the Academy Awards—otherwise known as the white people’s choice awards,” the actor-comedian quipped in his opening monologue.
And in boldly addressing the issue, he laid bare the absurdity of another, more outwardly deliberate dividing line associated with the Oscars:
“If you want black nominees every year, you need to have black categories. You already do it with men and women—think about it!
There’s no real reason for there to be a men and a women category in acting. It’s not track and field. You don’t have to separate them!”
There’s some real sense to those words. Actors, writers, producers this year—focusing on the troubling racial homogeneity—have largely been ignoring the strange and antiquated tradition of separating Oscar nominee categories by gender.
But arguments to end the segregation of the sexes are plenty: For starters, separate categories promote the idea that women and men somehow approach their work differently, while actors who don’t neatly fit into traditional gender categories are potentially excluded by the rigidity.
In tossing out these constructs, Rock suggests, best-actor awards would actually recognize the best talent, not just the best talent among women or the best talent among men. Robert De Niro vs. Meryl Streep? We think the world is ready.