“They Are Irrelevant:” Fans Lash Out as ‘The Last Of Us’ Star Calls Awards Ceremonies “Extremely Gendered”

in Entertainment, Movies & TV

Joel (R) and Ellie (L) The Last Of Us HBO

Credit: HBO Max

One of the leading stars of HBO’s hit apocalypse drama, The Last Of Us, is stirring up controversy after publicly denouncing awards shows for not including “more space” for nonbinary actors.

Joel and Ellie in HBO's 'The Last Of Us'
Credit: HBO

Over the past few decades, an increasing amount of artists, public figures, and people, in general, have come out to the world about their gender identities and sexual orientations. The transgender, gender nonconforming, gay, lesbian, and other communities have only continued to grow over the years as people feel more comfortable discussing their pronouns and sexualities.

With this comes a new sense of urgency for representation in mass media. Naturally, even some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities have come forth about exploring their genders and sexualities, including Bella Ramsey, the breakout star of HBO’s The Last Of Us.

bella ramsey as ellie in the last of us
Credit: HBO

Ramsey, who now uses they/them pronouns, came out as non-binary last year after the premiere of the critically-acclaimed video game adaptation. Since then, they’ve spoken openly about the challenges of trying to find a space in Hollywood where they can belong and truly be themselves.

In the series, Ramsey plays the cisgendered 14-year-old Ellie—a headstrong young woman traveling cross-country with Pedro Pascal’s Joel Miller.

Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) looking at a plane crash in 'The Last of Us'
Credit: HBO

And now, ahead of this year’s film and TV awards season, Ramsey has publicly called for “more space” for categories beyond the binary genders—and they’re not alone. Their request is being matched in intensity by numerous artists and fans online, including actors like Yellowjackets’ nonbinary star Liv Hewson, who announced last month they would withdraw from the Emmys race altogether.

Speaking with Vanity Fair in a recent interview, Ramsey spoke on the necessity of inclusion in Hollywood— particularly when it comes to award shows’ gendered acting accolades.

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey the last of us
Credit: HBO

With the Primetime Emmy nominations set to be announced on July 12, Ramsey star admitted to feeling “uncomfortable” at the idea of fitting into either lead-acting race and spoke with Last of Us creator Craig Mazin about potential alternatives. Ultimately, the young star decided to contend as an actress, even though they don’t personally adopt that label.

Ramsey cited not wanting “the limitations in terms of the language” to get in the way of actors like them being celebrated for their decision to run for the Best Actress category—a complex issue that has generated endless debate in recent months:

I don’t want the limitations in terms of the language in the categories to be a reason that nonbinary actors like me can’t be celebrated. And it can open up a conversation about how it feels—as long as I’m aware of the fact that it’s not ideal, but also that finding alternatives is really complex.

Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in 'The Last of Us'
Credit: HBO

As mentioned, Ramsey is just one of many actors partaking in the ongoing fight to de-gender acting categories at awards shows. The House of the Dragon star Emma D’Arcy, who also identifies as nonbinary, called their Best Actress nomination at the 2022 Golden Globes “beautifully ironic,” highlighting, “it implies the space for trans people and gender non-conforming people is getting bigger all the time.”

Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) and Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) in 'House of the Dragon'
Credit: HBO

However, for every rallying cry of support exists a group of people who simply can’t get on board with changing attitudes. On social media, Ramsey is receiving a wave of criticism, with Twitter users quick to point out all the supposed “flaws” in the young actor’s argument for better representation at awards shows. This person wrote:

Bella Ramsey Twitter replies 2

Meanwhile, this poster argued that Ramsey’s proposed change to award shows’ gendered categories would “disadvantage” female actors because the industry “always favors” males:

Bella Ramsey twitter replies 3

Still, fans are standing with Ramsey amid the ongoing backlash to their recent remarks, with one Twitter user writing, “bella ramsey being canceled on social media bc they just wanna be respected THIS IS INSANEEEEEE”:

Bella Ramsey Twitter fans

On the other hand, others agreed with Ramsey’s sentiments, simply proposing that awards shows add a new category, for gender nonconforming actors, or just remove gender altogether when it comes to acting accolades:

Ramsey’s call for more space at award ceremonies isn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last time this issue is debated—especially as awards season inches closer. The ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Best Actress’ may seem innocent enough, but beneath the surface, awarding only the identities that conform to the gender binary is upsetting to a younger generation of artists who have struggled against an established and extremely cisgendered system to be publicly accepted for they who are.

An acknowledgment of other gendered categories, or simply not gendering awards at all, would be a huge step in the right direction for shows like the Emmys, Oscars, Tonys, and Golden Globes moving forward. Hollywood still has a long way to go when it comes to inclusion and acceptance, but this could signify the start of meaningful change within this decades-old institution.

What do you think of Bella Ramsey’s recent comments? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Comments Off on “They Are Irrelevant:” Fans Lash Out as ‘The Last Of Us’ Star Calls Awards Ceremonies “Extremely Gendered”