After sitting through countless bloated awards shows indulging themselves for three or four hours at a time, the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards were a genuine relief — and in a delightful twist, even genuinely heartwarming.
Airing Monday night after taping Saturday, the edited ceremony ran just two hours long but managed to squeeze in 15 awards, two musical performances, and several pre-taped sketches featuring host Tiffany Haddish. (The best: a take on “Black Panther’s” throne challenge scene featuring “Get Out’s” Lil Rel Howry and Haddish’s “Girl’s Trip” costars Jada Pinkett-Smith and Queen Latifah, and Haddish telepathically communicating with Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren from “The Last Jedi,” complete with a tense standoff over a vibrator she tried to pass off as a back massager.) Speeches were largely short and sweet; the biggest exception was generation award winner Chris Pratt, who accidentally proved the power of short speeches by delivering a confusing list of life rules ranging from “learn to pray” to “learn to poop better at parties.”
With an ever-effervescent (and unapologetically thirsty) Haddish at the helm, people were at the awards for a good time, not a long time. By the night’s end, it was hard to understand why other awards show don’t follow suit more often. It was also easy to understand why MTV reportedly tapped Haddish to host earlier than they usually would; not only is she one of Hollywood’s fastest rising stars, but as the show’s opening song proved, she apparently can rap the hell out of a Cardi B beat.
But even if the awards ceremony felt breezy, it was far from weightless. Haddish began her monologue by pointing out with a mixture of pride and disbelief that she’s the first black woman to host the ceremony; she closed by snarking that she better wrap it up, because “when a black girl talks this much on MTV, she usually just got catfished.” During one of his three(!) acceptance speeches for “Black Panther,” star Chadwick Boseman shouted out guest of honor James Shaw Jr., the “Waffle House hero” who helped stop a mass shooting. Keiynan Lonsdale, accepting best kiss for his part in gay teen movie “Love, Simon” wearing a glitter-spackled face and flowing dress, declared that “you can achieve your dreams and be yourself.” Lena Waithe dedicated her trailblazer award to the cast of seminal documentary “Paris Is Burning,” reminding the younger audience that slang like “werk” and “slay” is rooted in drag ball culture and thanking her queer predecessors for “strutt[ing] through a brick wall so we wouldn’t have to.”
If it hasn’t become obvious by now, the night’s biggest and best moments belonged to its black and/or queer honorees. Throughout the night, they underlined some key shifts in the entertainment industry and celebrated progress in ways both casual and poignant. In a time when many awards shows feel like they’re reaching to make sure they include enough Political Moments to stay relevant, it was incredibly refreshing to see this one do it without breaking a sweat thanks to actual, meaningful inclusion.