“There’s a story we’ve been afraid to see and hear about ourselves in this industry,” Jane Fonda said at theon Sunday night. “A story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out, a story about who’s offered a seat at the table and who is kept out of the rooms where decisions are made.”
While accepting the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award, given for lifetime achievement in film, Fonda dedicated her speech to the night’s diverse nominees, calling on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to further “expand the tent.”
An actress, producer and documentarian — as well as an entrepreneur, activist and author — Fonda, 83, has spent six decades in Hollywood, winning two Oscars and seven Golden Globes, among countless other awards. She’s has beenfor her activism, which has spanned anti-Vietnam war efforts to, more recently, climate change.
But on Sunday, she focused her speech on a singular effort: inclusion.
Notably, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization of international journalists which organizes the, does not have a single Black member.
“We recognize we have our own work to do,” HFPA Vice President Helen Hoehne said Sunday night in an attempt to address the controversy. “Just like in film and television, Black representation is vital. We must have Black journalists in our organization.”
Read Fonda’s full acceptance speech:
Oh my God, thank you. Thank you, all the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. I’m so moved to receive this honor, thank you. You know — hi, Amy! — We are a community of storytellers, aren’t we? And in turbulent, crisis-torn times like these, storytelling has always been essential.
You see, stories have a way to — they can change our hearts and our minds, they can help us see each other in a new light. To have empathy. To recognize that for all our diversity, we are humans first, right?
You know, I’ve seen a lot of diversity in my long life, and at times I’ve been challenged to understand some of the people I’ve met, but inevitably, if my heart is open and I look beneath the surface, I feel kinship.
That’s why all of the great conduits of perception — Buddha, Mohammad, Jesus, Lao Tzu — all of them spoke to us in stories and poetry and metaphor. Because the nonlinear, non-cerebral forms that are art, speak on a different frequency. And they generate a new energy that can jolt us open and penetrate our defenses, so that we can see and hear what we may have been afraid of seeing and hearing.
Just this year, “Nomadland” helped me feel love for the wanderers among us, and “Minari” opened my eyes to the experience of immigrants dealing with the realities of life in a new land. And “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Small Axe,” “U.S. vs. Billie Holiday,” “,” “One Night in Miami” and others have deepened my empathy for what being Black has meant.
“Ramy” helped me feel what it means to be Muslim-American. “I May Destroy You” has taught me to consider sexual violence in a whole new way. The documentary “All In” reminds us how fragile our democracy is and inspires us to fight to preserve it, and “A Life on Our Planet” shows us how fragile our small blue planet is and inspires us to save it, and ourselves.
Stories, they really, they really can change people. But there’s a story we’ve been afraid to see and hear about ourselves in this industry, a story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out, a story about who’s offered a seat at the table and who is kept out of the rooms where decisions are made.
So let’s all of us, including all the groups that decide who gets hired and what gets made and who wins awards, let’s all of us make an effort to expand that tent so that everyone rises and everyone’s story has a chance to be seen and heard.
I mean, doing this simply means acknowledging what’s true, being in step with the emerging diversity that’s happening because of all those who marched and fought in the past and those who’ve picked up the baton today. After all, art has always been not just in step with history, but has led the way. So let’s be leaders, okay? Thank you, thank you so much.