Emma Watson wins landmark gender-neutral Best Actor prize at the MTV Awards

Emma Watson accepts Best Actor in a Movie at the MTV Awards

Emma Watson has won the first gender-neutral Best Actor in a Movie prize at the MTV Awards.

She picked up the gong last night from non-binary Billions actor Asia Kate Dillon at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles for her lead role as Belle in Disney’s live-action remake of its classic Beauty and the Beast.

Watson beat competition from fellow nominees Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Hugh Jackman (Logan), James McAvoy (Split) and Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen).

“MTV’s move to create a genderless award for acting will mean something different to everyone,” she said in her acceptance speech.

Emma Watson at the Beauty and the Beast premiere

“To me, it indicates that acting is about the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and that doesn’t need to be separated into two different categories.”

Watson added: “Empathy and the ability to use your imagination should have no limits.

“This is very meaningful to me, both to be winning the award and to be receiving it from you in such an inclusive, patient and loving way.”

Meanwhile, the Best Actor in a Show prize went to Millie Bobby Brown for her striking performance in Stranger Things. The other nominees in that category were Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Donald Glover (Atlanta), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead), Mandy Moore (This Is Us) and Gina Rodriguez (Jane The Virgin).

Beauty and the Beast has received both praise and criticism for its inclusion of an LGBT character with its new depiction of Le Fou.

Director Bill Condon described Le Fou’s realisation of his sexuality as “a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie” and Watson praised the “fun” and “incredibly subtle” twist.

The inclusion of LGBT characters in movies like Beauty and the Beast and the recent Power Rangers reboot was hailed as a “lifeline” by GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis but predictably caused outrage among others.

Le Fou

Authorities in Malaysia initially postponed the release of the film pending an “internal review”, resulting in Disney pulling the movie from the country after censors cut the “gay moment”.

The censors then backed down, meaning the film could be shown in full, but several NGOs in the country filed police reports for the supposed violation of the “religious and cultural values of Malaysia“.

Several groups in the US also expressed their opposition to the film, with one Alabama drive-in dropping the movie from its schedules and criticising Disney for trying to “force their views on us”.

Pastor Kevin Swanson claimed that the scene being in a PG movie was part of a “cultural revolution” against family life in the US.

Boycotts from the anti-LBGT American Family Association and others did not harm the commercial performance of the film, though, which smashed box office records and is already the highest grossing film of 2017 and the 11th highest-grossing film of all time.