The Academy Award speech we should have heard
Here’s a speech we would like to hear from an Academy Award winner:
I thank you for this wonderful award. Receiving an Academy Award gives the recipient an almost unique opportunity to speak to hundreds of millions people around the world, so I would like take this once-in-a-lifetime moment to say this:
First, I want to thank my country, the United States of America. Every one of us here has this country to thank for enabling us to live lives of unprecedented freedom and unimaginable affluence. Too many of us forget that no other country in history has offered such opportunities to people in our profession or in any other profession, for that matter.
Second, I want to thank the men and women of the armed forces of the United States. While we bask in freedom and spend a good part of our lives going from party to party and award show to award show, tens of thousands of my fellow Americans are confronting a menace to our world as great as that fought by previous generations fighting Nazism and communism.
At the same time, I also want to apologize to these troops for my profession not having made even one motion picture about any of the heroic American fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq. This country is fighting a war, Hollywood. You may think this war is unwise, waged under mistaken, or even false, pretenses. And as an actor in Hollywood, you are overwhelmingly likely to hate this commander in chief. But even the men and women of Hollywood must recognize that America is fighting the worst people of our time, people who hurt every group Hollywood claims to care about — minorities, women, gays — people who engage in the sins Hollywood most professes to oppose — intolerance and violence — far more than anyone else on the planet.
In another era, when what many have labeled "the greatest generation" fought the German Nazis and the Japanese fascists, Hollywood made movie after movie depicting that great war and our great warriors. And Hollywood showed freedom’s enemies as the cruel and vicious people they were. We have not produced one film yet depicting this war in positive terms or one depicting this generation’s enemies of freedom as the cruel and vicious people they are.
In fact, the only nominated film about people who slaughter children at discos, blow up weddings, and bomb pizzerias and buses filled with men, women and children is one that attempts to show these murderers in God’s name as complex human beings. Just imagine how the Academy would have reacted 60 years ago to a film depicting Nazi murderers as complex human beings. We have descended far.
We in Hollywood walk around thinking we are very important. That is why this year’s nominated films for best picture are largely pictures with messages, pictures that relatively few people actually see. But although Hollywood was always concerned with politics, we have let ourselves be taken over by those for whom their message is more significant than the primary purposes of film — to illuminate life and to entertain. Yes, entertain.
You know, entertainment is actually a noble pursuit. Life is difficult for almost every human being on earth. And if we can offer people an elevated way to divert their attention for a couple of hours from their troubled child, their marital tensions, their ill parent, their financial woes, we have rendered the world a greater service than by making another message-film against racism in America, the least racist country in the world.
My fellow actors, we walk around feeling that we are very important. But we do so only because we confuse fame with significance. We do have more fame than any other human beings in history. Far more people have heard of any actor here tonight than of any of the discoverers of any medication saving billions of lives, of any teacher of the disabled, of any nurse tending the aged, of almost any national leader.
But the truth is that, as noble a calling as acting can be, all we do is make-believe: We portray other people, and we speak words written by other people. Everyone knows our names, but almost no one knows us. All they know are the characters we play.
Thank you again. I hope I haven’t ruined your evening.
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