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Tilda Swinton: championing talent, regardless of gender | Rebecca Nicholson


It is rare that a move being described as “eminently sensible” is newsworthy; still, at the Venice film festival last week, this is how Tilda Swinton referred to the fact that the Berlin film festival will no longer be handing out acting awards by gender.

“I think it’s pretty much inevitable that everybody will follow. It’s just obvious to me,” she said. Cate Blanchett also expressed her support, explaining that she prefers to be known as an actor. “I am of the generation where the word actress was used almost always in a pejorative sense. So I claim the other space,” she said.

Take it from me, little occasions as much commenter wrath as following this publication’s style guide and referring to a woman who acts as an “actor”. The notion of rewarding good performance by performance alone already exists for some award shows and, as Swinton says, it is inevitable that more will follow.

Splitting acting categories into two genders, and only acting categories, is something that makes less sense the more you think about it, like saying a word over and over again, until it no longer sounds like a word. Extend it to any other category – best costume (male), best sound design (female) etc – and it is anachronistic and strange. And as the non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon, star of Billions, asked the Emmys in 2017: “If the categories of ‘actor’ and ‘actress’ are meant to denote assigned sex I ask, respectfully, why is that necessary?”

Some say that without splitting awards by gender, women would be underrepresented, as they are in, say, best director, a category that is usually all-male, regardless of who is making films that year. But that argument is unconvincing, half-hearted, and it no longer feels good enough.

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I love awards ceremonies so much that I feel real fury when a deserving winner is robbed, yet it seems to me that the only downside would be cutting the number of acting awards, and therefore acceptance speeches, in half. While I am here for equality, I am not here for being deprived of the opportunity to decide whether tears are real or to spot those “accidental” omissions from the thank-yous.

On the other hand, nobody who wasn’t stuck right there in the room has ever watched the entirety of the Grammys. Abolish gendered categories and we can zip through everything in an hour, argue about the winners for a bit, then go home and have an early night. An eminently sensible suggestion.

Nicola Adams: she thinks outside the Strictly box

Nicola Adams
Nicola Adams: ‘This is a step in the right direction.’ Photograph: John Walton/PA

The slow reveal of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing line-up has been received with such warmth that you’d think there was a pandemic slowing the production of television shows or something and that we’re so grateful for the prospect of new live entertainment that we can’t even be bothered to say: “Who is he, famous on YouTube or something?” in a sneery voice about someone who has barely left school but is richer than any of us will ever be.

So far, the shortened Strictly 2020 run looks promising, from EastEnders’ Maisie Smith to Bill Bailey and Clara Amfo, via Jamie Laing, who must be on course to pick up the reality TV equivalent of an EGOT (someone who has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony award), as he has, surely, now completed the lot. The boxer Nicola Adams has signed up, too, and will make Strictly history by being partnered with a female dancer. “It’s definitely time to move on and be more diverse and this is a brilliant step in the right direction,” she told BBC Breakfast.

What’s more, she didn’t have to do it. No other gay contestant in the show’s history has had a same-sex dance partner, but Adams says she was the one to suggest it to producers, which makes me admire her more. It was only last November that a tiny proportion of Strictly viewers was so offended by the sight of two men dancing together, on a show practically built from sparkles, that they actually made the effort to complain to the BBC about it. Let’s hope her footwork is up to scratch.

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Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: the revival of the fittest

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: renaissance man. Photograph: Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

It used to be that the prospect of a rebooted television or film classic would fan the flames of excitement, based on nostalgia that had developed after a long period of absence from our screens. Westworld? Sure, why not, it’s been 40-plus years. Doctor Who? There was time to miss it before it came back. Now, however, like a dodgy washing machine, any show might be recalled at any time. The latest in line for a “revival”, though surely we should come up with a new way of describing it – post-nap return? – is the fun, ridiculous teen thriller Pretty Little Liars, which excused itself from our screens in just 2017, although it also had two spinoffs, both of which were cancelled after one season.

Still, you can’t keep it down. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the showrunner for the teen drama television series Riverdale, is developing “a new take” on the series, which will feature a new story and new characters, all of which makes it sound ever so slightly like a new show, doesn’t it? I, however, am holding out for the inevitable Euphoria reboot. Euphoria hasn’t ended yet, of course, but at this rate, we might as well get ahead.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist



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