Joaquin Phoenix completed a clean sweep of the Globes, BAFTAs and Oscars by winning the Academy Award for Best Actor. Phoenix’s acceptance speech encompassed the fight against injustice, animal and environmental rights, and the need to guide each other to redemption.
Phoenix was the odds-on favourite coming into the film industry awards season. But the Joker star wasn’t interested in a month of mindless hedonism. After winning his first Oscar after three previous nominations, Phoenix used his acceptance speech to give voice to the voiceless.
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After a broad-reaching introduction – which underlined the commonality between struggles against gender inequality and racism and the pursuit of queer rights, indigenous rights and animal rights – Phoenix gave especial attention to the natural world.
“Many of us are guilty of an egocentric world view, and we believe that we’re the centre of the universe,” he said, trembling with intent. “We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources.”
Phoenix has been a vegan since he was three years old and is closely involved with PETA and other animal rights organisations. Knowing this detail helps contextualise the disambiguated words that followed.
“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakeable,” Phoenix said. “Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”
Watch: Joaquin Phoenix’s full Oscars speech
He’s obviously made this argument before and anticipated the reflex defensiveness. So, he followed by pointing towards a progressive future.
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“We fear the idea of personal change, because we think we need to sacrifice something; to give something up. But human beings at our best are so creative and inventive, and we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and the environment.”
Phoenix’s speech ended by urging everyone to guide one another to redemption instead of cancelling each other “for our past mistakes.” His final words were courtesy of his late brother River: “Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.”