Editor's Note: Guest blogger Damon L. Jacobs is a licensed psychotherapist and author in New York City. You can find out more about his unique approaches to health and wellness by visiting www.DamonLJacobs.com.
Since when are Hollywood actors expected to speak on behalf of oppressed groups? By what standards is someone's commitment to helping other measured? And whose responsibility is it to stand up for important social issues?
These are some of the issues that are currently being debated back and forth, in light of Matthew McConaughey's speech at last night's Academy Awards ceremony. Upon winning the award for Best Actor for Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey thanked "all 6000 members of The Academy," the film's cast and crew, his mother, his wife, his kids, his late father, himself in ten years, as well as God.
He pretty much expressed gratitude to everyone and everything except for the people with HIV/AIDS portrayed in the film, and people living with HIV today who are still struggling.
Here's a full transcript, via The Wire:
Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you to the Academy for this--all 6,000 members. Thank you to the other nominees. All these performances were impeccable in my opinion. I didn't see a false note anywhere. I want to thank Jean-Marc Vallée, our director. Want to thank Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, who I worked with daily.
There's a few things, about three things to my account that I need each day. One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase. Now, first off, I want to thank God. 'Cause that's who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand. He has shown me that it's a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late Charlie Laughton, who said, "When you've got God, you got a friend. And that friend is you."
To my family, that who and what I look forward to. To my father who, I know he's up there right now with a big pot of gumbo. He's got a lemon meringue pie over there. He's probably in his underwear. And he's got a cold can of Miller Lite and he's dancing right now. To you, Dad, you taught me what it means to be a man. To my mother who's here tonight, who taught me and my two older brothers... demanded that we respect ourselves. And what we in turn learned was that we were then better able to respect others. Thank you for that, Mama. To my wife, Camila, and my kids Levi, Vida and Mr. Stone, the courage and significance you give me every day I go out the door is unparalleled. You are the four people in my life that I want to make the most proud of me. Thank you.
And to my hero. That's who I chase. Now when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say "who's your hero?" And I said, "I don't know, I gotta think about that. Give me a couple of weeks." I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says "who's your hero?" I said, "I thought about it. You know who it is? It's me in 10 years." So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, "So, are you a hero?" And I was like, "not even close. No, no, no." She said, "Why?" I said, "Because my hero's me at 35." So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero's always 10 years away. I'm never gonna be my hero. I'm not gonna attain that. I know I'm not, and that's just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.
So, to any of us, whatever those things are, whatever it is we look up to, whatever it is we look forward to, and whoever it is we're chasing, to that I say, "Amen." To that I say, "Alright, alright, alright." To that I say "just keep living." Thank you.
Many are subsequently taking umbrage at this omission, referring to McConaughey as vain, selfish, narcissistic, and "disgusting." They believe McConaughey "should" have thanked Ron Woodroof, whose life the film is based upon, or at least said the word "AIDS" in his acceptance speech. There is a general feeling that McConaughey "owes" the activist community this debt of appreciation, because he had the audacity to deliver a first-rate performance of a real-life hero struggling with AIDS.
What I look for in Oscar speeches, as well as in any public statement, is authenticity. Is the person speaking being true to themselves? Do they have integrity? Are they saying one thing while meaning another? Do they claim to care for a group of people for whom they have no interest whatsoever?