Last night’s MTV Movie & TV Awards struck a win for equality, diversity, and inclusion, awarding its Best Kiss trophy to Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome for “Moonlight.”
The pair accepted the award with an emotional speech, affirming the symbolism of their win for the LGBTQ community, many of whom may not be used to seeing their experiences represented on screen.
“This represents more than a kiss. This is for those who feel like the others, the misfits. This represents us,” Sanders said, as he held his popcorn trophy for the first time.
“Moonlight,” which follows the lives of two friends growing up in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood, won rave reviews for its three-dimensional depiction of LGBT characters, and its nuanced, unconventional roles for actors of color — which Jerome triumphantly shouted out in his acceptance speech.
“It is OK for us young performers, especially us minority performers, to step out of the box and do whatever it takes to tell the story and do whatever it takes to make a change,” the actor said.
Same-sex pairs have won MTV’s “Best Kiss” award before, but mostly for “joke” smooches. Previous winners include Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott for “American Pie 2,” and Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen for “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”
Sanders’ and Jerome’s victory was the first for an actual same-sex romantic pair since Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal won for “Brokeback Mountain” in 2006.
Predictably, the internet was overjoyed.
Sanders and Jerome’s epic victory wasn’t the only revelation at the MTV Movie & TV Awards this year.
This year, the Movie & TV Awards became first major awards show to make its acting category gender neutral.
And its “Best Fight” category was recast as an award for Best Fight Against the System, which went to Taraji P. Henson for her portrayal of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson in “Hidden Figures.”
With more small steps like these, awards shows can help ensure that the world offscreen — in its infinite complexity — is the one being represented on-screen as well.
Lives and relationships come in all combinations, shapes, and sizes.
Props to the MTV Movie & TV Awards for not just recognizing that, but celebrating it too.