Film & TV

Joaquin Phoenix Criticizes Cancel Culture in Oscars Acceptance Speech

Joaquin Phoenix backstage at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles, January 19, 2020. (Monica Almeida/Reuters)

Joaquin Phoenix gave a discursive speech in which he both criticized “cancel” culture and advocated for social justice while accepting the Oscar for best actor for his performance in “The Joker” Sunday night.

“I have been a scoundrel all my life, I’ve been selfish. I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with, and I’m grateful that so many of you in this room have given me a second chance,” Phoenix said. “I think that’s when we’re at our best: when we support each other. Not when we cancel each other out for our past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow. When we educate each other; when we guide each other to redemption.”

Phoenix also lamented the atomization of modern politics, arguing that Americans are too quick to identify with niche special interest groups rather than finding common ground with others.

“I think at times we feel or are made to feel that we champion different causes. But for me, I see commonality. I think, 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,” the 45-year-old actor said from the stage holding Hollywood’s top award.

“We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender, one species, has the right to dominate, use and control another with impunity,” Phoenix continued at the politically-charged awards ceremony.

Phoenix also called out the dairy industry in particularly graphic fashion, saying that humans “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.”

Several other actors gave speeches with a political flavor, from director Julia Reichert’s call for “workers of the world unite,” a reference to “The Communist Manifesto” to Brad Pitt’s criticism of the presidential impeachment trial.

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