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Moonlight‘s Jharrel Jerome and Ashton Sanders Just Made MTV History

Update: May 7, 2017, 7 p.m. PT: Who said glass ceilings weren’t made for breaking? At the 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards, Moonlight actors Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome made history when they won for Best Kiss. This is the first time two young black actors have been awarded for portraying a same-sex kiss between two black men.

Well done, guys. You deserve this great honor.

Original article: The 2017 MTV Movies Awards have been announced, and holy smokes, is this an exciting lineup. According to a press release from MTV, the categories are getting a major shake-up this year. “In a first-of-its-kind move, MTV is blending nominees across movies and television where actors from all screens can vie for the Golden Popcorn in the same categories. Additionally, the show will break down the gender wall with exclusively non-gendered categories.” Can I get a “Hell yes”?

There are some new categories thrown into the mix this year, like Best Fight Against the System (obviously here for Get Out), Best Hero (it’s totes going to go Felicity Jones in Rogue One) and Best Duo (how could Broad City lose?). But the most interesting of the new categories is, without a doubt, the Tearjerker category. I’m calling it right now: It’s going to be a tough fight between Hodor’s death on Game of Thrones and the This Is Us karate scene with Jack and Randall, but Hodor will for sure prevail.

More: 22 Best Moments From the MTV Movie Awards (Including That Kiss!) — in GIFs

Along with all those first-of-its-kind moves, one of MTV’s nominees this year is set to break some big, big barriers. Two of the Best Kiss nominees, Moonlight‘s Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome, could potentially make MTV Movie Awards history if they win on May 7. The category they’re nominated in, Best Kiss, may have had a noticeably large group of same-sex couples nominated over the years, but this category has been astonishingly white and has, when it comes to the kinds of kisses getting nominated, favored gay kisses played for comedic effect.

Moonlight Teens
Image: Giphy

Jerome and Sanders’ Moonlight kiss is my favorite in this category. They’re up against Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling for La La Land, Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard for Empire, and last but not least, Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick for Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Not to shade the latter couples, but line up all those kisses and tell me Moonlight‘s is not the most perfect out of the entire group. Go on, I dare you.

This kiss is not only genuine and passionate, but it is so representative of a kind of longing unique to how we portray queerness in film. You can see there is a desire to say things that can’t be easily said between the two young men in this film. Their moment on the beach is so full of intensity, teenage hormones and love that it’s tough not to feel the emotional pull of it as you watch. Basically, Jerome and Sanders deserve to win this.

More: Why Our World Needed Moonlight So Much, As Explained by Director Barry Jenkins

Apart from its singular greatness, this Moonlight kiss (should it be crowned the winner) has the potential to occupy a unique seat in MTV Movie Awards history. In the 25 years of the MTV Movie Awards’ existence, there have been 18 same-sex kisses nominated. Those kisses break down into the following demographics:

  • 14 couples and four threesomes
  • Six kisses have been specifically guy-on-guy
  • Among the guy-on-guy kisses, only two have been played for serious reasons relevant to the story (James Franco and Sean Penn in Milk and Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain) and not for comedic effect between two straight male characters
  • Out of the 40 people included in these nominations, only two non-white actors have been nominated (Sacha Baron Cohen and Natassia Malthe)

So, in an overwhelmingly white category and in one that often nominates gay male kisses played for the punchline rather than something meaningful, Moonlight‘s pivotal kiss could make MTV history. Jerome and Sanders would join a small group of actors of color to win the award (joining Will Smith, Sean Patrick Thomas and Sacha Baron Cohen). They would also be the first pair of male Best Kiss nominees of color to win, and furthermore, win for a kiss that was productive to Moonlight championing and exploring a queer narrative we rarely see on film.

Moonlight Kiss
Image: Giphy

More: The Magic Mike XXL Stars’ MTV Movie Awards Speech About Women Was Condescending

So, yeah, does Moonlight deserve to win? Obviously. Are the chances high that it could win? Considering it’s already managed to surprise us with big award wins in the recent past, I think that anything is possible where Moonlight is concerned.

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