Donald Trump’s name was only mentioned once during this year’s MTV Movie & TV Awards, but that didn’t mean Sunday night’s ceremony shied away from hot-button political issues.
Social justice was the theme of the night as MTV handed out its first “gender-neutral” actor awards, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) presented the “Best Fight Against the System” award for activism, and several stars including Hidden Figures actress Taraji P. Henson and Fate of the Furious actor Vin Diesel praised the diversity and inclusive themes of their films.
Billions star Asia Kate Dillon kicked off the night by presenting the award for Best Actor in a Movie, which included both male and female nominees for the first time.
“This year has been full of firsts for me. I am the first openly non-binary actor to play a non-binary character on a major television show,” Dillon said. “And now it’s so cool to be here presenting the first acting award ever that celebrates performance free of any gender distinction.”
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) May 8, 2017
Best Actor winner Emma Watson said the award’s gender-neutral nature “says something about how we perceive the human experience,” and explained how much she enjoyed playing the character of Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
“The villagers in our fairytale wanted to make Belle believe that the world was smaller than the way that she saw it with fewer opportunities for her, that her curiosity and passion for knowledge and her desire for more in life were grounds for alienation,” Watson said. “I loved playing someone who didn’t listen to any of that. I’m so proud to be part of a film that celebrates diversity, literacy, inclusion, joy and love the way that this one does.”
Meanwhile, the night’s signature Best Kiss award went to the same-sex smooth between Moonlight actors Ashton Sanders and Jharrell Jerome.
“This represents more than a kiss,” Sanders said while accepting the award. “This is for those who feel like the others, the misfits. This represents us, so we love you and thank you all.”
The awards show also saw an appearance from Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who presented the Golden Popcorn for “Best Fight Against the System” to the NASA drama Hidden Figures and its star, Taraji P. Henson.
— Nicole Dellert (@nic_heartsburgs) May 8, 2017
“The message of this movie is togetherness,” Henson said of the film, which earned a Best Picture nomination at this year’s Academy Awards. “I hate the separation, man versus woman, black versus white, gay versus straight. Whatever. We are all humans, right? God is very clever. He made us all different for a reason. So we better figure it out.”
Actor Vin Diesel also praised his film’s message of inclusion while accepting the Generation Award on behalf of the eight-film Fast and the Furious franchise, the first time the award was presented to a film franchise rather than an individual. Diesel was joined onstage by co-stars Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and Jordana Brewster.
“I got to thank our generation,” Diesel said. “I got to to thank a generation that was willing to accept this multicultural franchise where it didn’t matter what color your skin was, or what country you’re from. When you’re family, you’re family.”
— MTV (@MTV) May 8, 2017
Daily Show host Trevor Noah provided the night’s sole reference to the president when he thanked him during his acceptance speech after winning Best Host.
“Thank you Donald J. Trump for the comedy,” Noah said, joking that the “J” in Trump’s middle name stands for “Jesus.” Noah also thanked France for “making the right decision” in its election Sunday, after the country elected independent candidate Emmanuel Macron president.
Other big winners on the night included Beauty and the Beast (Best Film), Get Out actor Daniel Kaluuya (Next Generation Award), Logan stars Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen (Best On-Screen Duo), and the Netflix hit Stranger Things (Show of the Year). The show was hosted by Workaholics star Adam DeVine.
View the full list of winners here.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum