Actor Joaquin Phoenix accepted the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Arthur Fleck in Todd Phillip’s masterpiece film Joker. Phoenix portrayed this character with such real sadness and despair, bringing to life the reality of medical care for mental health, or rather the lack thereof. His win was, in my opinion, deserved because of his moving and jaw-dropping performance. However, in his acceptance speech Phoenix did not speak of mental health, but rather the fight against injustice that we as Americans and humans face every day, with threatening, apprehensive consequences.
Beginning his speech with the acknowledgment of the other nominees, Phoenix began to indulge in the controversial topic of inequality. Now labeled Hollywood’s man of progress, he stated, “Whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice. We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity,” introducing the idea of human superiority. He claims that we have disconnected with the natural world, plundering it for its resources and exploiting it for our own personal gain. The gain we receive is imbalanced with what we give back to the planet.
We have what he says is a “egocentric” world view, in which we ignore the importance of the natural life on earth that is not the human species. We do not want to help, but rather harm for our own selfish benefit. Whether or not you agree with the concept of climate change and/or social injustice, there is truth within this speech. The reality of the world we live in is centered around ourselves. He says, “We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal…”
Although there is tragedy caused by the hands of our own kind, Phoenix recognizes hope for the future. I respect him for using his platform to inform and warn, rather than ignore the situation we are dealing with on a daily basis. Phoenix claims that we are selfish, but we are innovative and creative. We can give ourselves a second chance to prove our worth to the planet through support and education with the potential to grow as a species, guiding each other to redemption.
One may doubt his credentials because of his occupation – I mean it’s a speech at the Oscars, right? Not a presentation at the United Nations. But with further research into this topic, one would find that there is no falsified information presented in the speech. Arguably opinionated, these statements must be taken into account while putting in perspective the health of our environment and the undeniably dark future we face if we do not act immediately. Profound social change will only happen if we make it happen. By calling out our racism, misogyny, inequality and cancel culture, Phoenix has shown us the obstacles we must overcome and destroy in order to begin the next step in the betterment of our only home.
He is one of my favorite actors, not only based on his outstanding performances, but also because of his views on personal and social responsibility as well.
To finish off his speech, Joaquin Phoenix quoted his late brother, River: “Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.”
Watch the whole speech in the video below: