Created By: familyfunny on September 22, 2012 Last Edited By: Tuckerscreator on December 28, 2012
Troped

Award Category Fraud

This actor plays the main character, but not in the eyes of the Oscar Voters.

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Trope
Wherein the significance of a person's role (typically in a feature film) is downgraded. This is typically done when an actor or actress has been met with praise for their role, but have some shortcoming (ie. acting newcomer, young, first-time nominee, etc.) that would prevent them from recieving awards. So, in order to increase their chances at winning gold, they are entered into the awards races in (what are for some reason seen as) lesser categories in the supporting roles.

Compare Billing Displacement and Protagonist Title Fallacy. Related to Oscar Bait.
Examples

  • Hailee Steinfeld's role as Mattie Ross in The Coen Brothers' adaptation of True Grit, where despite being the main character (aside from Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn), and being in virtually every scene in the film, and being praised up and down for her work, was demoted by almost every single film awards association to "Best Supporting Actress".
  • Jennifer Hudson as Effie White in Dreamgirls (the role is seen as a lead on stage and had earned Jennifer Holliday a Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Musical)
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly in Chicago (a similar situation to Dreamgirls where the role is seen as a lead on stage and previously earned an actress a Leading Tony [in this case Bebe Neuworth in the popular revival])
  • Casey Affleck as Robert Ford in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was also nominated mainly as the supporting role.)
  • Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond, nominated for Best Supporting Actor (while Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated as Lead), despite the fact that the entire story revolves around his quest to rescue his son.
  • Jeff Bridges, generally considered the lead as the President in The Contender, especially since many expected Gary Oldman's villainous Senator to be nominated as Best Supporting Actor.
  • Danny Aiello in Do the Right Thing, arguably a co-lead with Spike Lee, was nominated in Best Supporting Actor.
  • Male lead William H. Macy was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Fargo, probably because he plays the lead antagonist.
  • Haing S. Ngor won Best Supporting Actor for The Killing Fields, despite the fact that a large portion of the movie follows him and not Best Actor-nominated Sam Waterston.
  • Geoffrey Rush won Best Actor for Shine, despite not having that much screen time.
  • Anthony Hopkins set the record for shortest performance to win a Lead Actor Oscar when he won for his performance as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, which some considered to be a supporting role.
  • Kevin Spacey won Best Supporting Actor for The Usual Suspects, where he played the clear lead. Some suspected this was because nominating him for his performance that same year in Seven would have been considered a spoiler.
  • Enforced for the nominations for Gone with the Wind. Both Olivia de Havilland and Vivien Leigh were possible nominees for Best Actress, but the studio didn't want their two actress to compete and so pushed for deHavilland to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. This, however, came to naught when Hattie McDaniel instead won for her role, also from Gone With The Wind.
  • Mary Badham was nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as "Scout" Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, despite being the clear main character of the film. Gregory Peck as her father won for Best Actor.

Inversions
  • Meryl Streep was nominated for Best Actress for The Devil Wears Prada, while the clear lead of the movie, played by Anne Hathaway, was given no recognition at all.
  • Nicole Kidman won Best Actress for The Hours, an emsemble piece with no clear lead,
  • An odd case: Kate Winslet was given many controversial precursor Best Supporting Actress awards for The Reader, and was expected to continue this at the Oscars, but she was instead nominated for Lead Actress, snubbing her own equally-acclaimed performance in Revolutionary Road (Oscar rules prohibit an actor being nominated twice in the same category)
  • Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her clear lead role in Whale Rider at the Screen Actors Guild awards, but was later nominated in Best Actress at the Oscars.
  • Similarly to Kate Winslet, Scarlett Johansson won a BAFTA award for her performance in Lost in Translation, where she had a smaller role than her other nominated performance from that year, in Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Community Feedback Replies: 27
  • September 22, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    The title may be changed to comply with Trope Namer Syndrome.

    • Inverted with Kate Winslet for the 2009 Oscars. A campaign was started to nominate her for Best Actress in Revolutionary Road and Best Supporting Actress for The Reader, but she ended up being nominating (and winning) Best Actress for The Reader.
  • September 22, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    This seems barely good as an audience reaction.
  • September 23, 2012
    KevinKlawitter
    Oscar prognosticators tend to call this "Category Fraud". The Oscar equivalent of Billing Displacement. Other notorious examples:

    • Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond, nominated for Best Supporting Actor (while Leonardo Di Caprio was nominated as Lead), despite the fact that the entire story revolves around his quest to rescue his son.
    • Jeff Bridges, generally considered the lead as the President in The Contender, especially since many expected Gary Oldman's villainous Senator to be nominated as Best Supporting Actor.
    • Danny Aiello in Do The Right Thing, arguably a co-lead with Spike Lee, was nominated in Best Supporting Actor.
    • Male lead William H. Macy was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Fargo, probably because he plays the lead antagonist.
    • Haing S. Ngor won Best Supporting Actor for The Killing Fields, despite the fact that a large portion of the movie follows him and not Best Actor-nominated Sam Waterston.
    • Geoffrey Rush won Best Actor for Shine, despite not having that much screen time.
    • Anthony Hopkins set the record for shortest performance to win a Lead Actor Oscar when he won for his performance as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs, which some considered to be a supporting role.
    • Kevin Spacey won Best Supporting Actor for The Usual Suspects, where he played the clear lead. Some suspected this was because nominating him for his performance that same year in Seven would have been considered a spoiler.

    Inversions
    • Meryl Streep was nominated for Best Actress for The Devil Wears Prada, while the clear lead of the movie, played by Anne Hathaway, was given no recognition at all.
    • Nicole Kidman won Best Actress for The Hours, an emsemble piece with no clear lead,
    • An odd case: Kate Winslet was given many controversial precursor Best Supporting Actress awards for The Reader, and was expected to continue this at the Oscars, but she was instead nominated for Lead Actress, snubbing her own equally-acclaimed performance in Revolutionary Road (Oscar rules prohibit an actor being nominated twice in the same category)
    • Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her clear lead role in Whale Rider at the Screen Actors Guild awards, but was later nominated in Best Actress at the Oscars.
  • September 23, 2012
    spacemarine50
  • September 23, 2012
    KevinKlawitter
    No it is not, and that's far too many individual tropes to list in an attempt to prove that this is not one. ANYBODY can do that, just like anybody can claim any trope is "X but more" if they grasp at straws hard enough.
  • October 6, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    • Enforced for the nominations for Gone With The Wind. Both Olivia deHavilland and Vivien Leigh were possible nominees for Best Actress, but the studio didn't want their two actress to compete and so pushed for deHavilland to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. This, however, came to naught when Hattie McDaniel instead won for her role, also from Gone With The Wind.
  • October 6, 2012
    unfound
    ^^^ Billing Displacement is the closest, and they'll likely go hand in hand, but it's not the same.

    Any chance this is worth expanding into other award-category oddities? Like recent ongoing British shows (and American Horror Story, for some reason) being nominated for Emmys as miniseries, and the whole animated award ghetto?
  • October 6, 2012
    spacemarine50
    Is this Award Snub, or a subtrope of it?
  • October 6, 2012
    BlueIceTea
    If the inverse qualifies as well, then Forrest Whitaker being nominated (and winning) in the Best Actor category for The Last King Of Scotland.
  • October 6, 2012
    BlueIceTea
    • Mary Badham was nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as "Sout" Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, despite being the clear main character of the film.
  • December 6, 2012
    koook160
    • Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People won Best Supporting Actor for 1980, despite being the clear main character. There are two big reasons for this; One, this was his debut performance; Two, there was no way in hell he could have beaten Robert De Niro in Raging Bull.
  • December 6, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Subjective. Not A Trope. This seems barely good as an Audience Reaction.
  • December 6, 2012
    shimaspawn
    <Mod Hat>

    This name is in violation of site rules. Change it before launching.
  • December 7, 2012
    koook160
    Perhaps Category Fraud would be a better name? That way it could expand into different branches other than just acting.
  • December 7, 2012
    StarSword
    ^Award Category Fraud?

    @rodney: I agree that it's Not A Trope. Makes a perfectly good Trivia item, though.
  • December 7, 2012
    shimaspawn
    yes, this would be Trivia if launched and put on the Trivia tab.
  • December 7, 2012
    koook160
    Trivia is fine. It's subjective, though. Take, say, Christian Bale in The Fighter. You could make an argument for him being a co-lead or a supporting actor. The line can blur.
  • December 17, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Inversion? For 1992 the Emmys got rid of the Best Guest Appearance categories and several people were nominated as Best Lead Actor/Actress for guest roles; the only one I recall off the top of my head is Kelsey Grammar who was nominated Best Actor for playing Frasier Crane in one episode of Wings.
  • December 18, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    Seeing as the owner hasn't edited this for months, I'll host it.
  • December 19, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    Any improvement suggestions?
  • December 20, 2012
    lakingsif
    Scarlett Johansson didn't win Best Actress in 2003 for her peformance in Girl With A Pearl Earring, because she instead won for her performance in Lost In Translation - in which her role was not as large as in the former. Frequently in the BAFTAs people are nominated multiple times in one category if they have multiple works out, and multiple people can be nominated from the same works. Fans wondered why she was nominated for Best Actress In A Lead Role and not Best Actress In A Supporting Role in Lost In Translation, as she could have potentially won both. The same goes for Kate Winslet's multiple nominations for the same award in both 2004 and 2008 - nominating her in one of the pieces as Best Actress In A Supporting Role could have meant more awards.
  • December 24, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    No further improvement suggestions? Any more hats?
  • December 26, 2012
    BlueIceTea
    ^^ Scarlett Johansson's one of the two main characters in Lost In Translation. Surely that makes her Best Actress material.
  • December 26, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    I haven't seen Lost in Translation, so I couldn't verify that example. Is it big enough a role to drop it from the list?
  • December 26, 2012
    StarSword
    ^^^Do we know of any non-film examples?
  • December 27, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    One more bump before launching. Any further suggestions?
  • December 28, 2012
    spacemarine50
    What about Oscar Bait.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=4zl4ymlfun6o6zfzuilylpsi&trope=AwardCategoryFraud