“Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.” So ended Joaquin Phoenix’s uplifting speech after winning his award for best actor at the 2020 Academy Awards, quoting a lyric his brother once wrote. Phoenix stressed Hollywood’s responsibility to speak out against the social injustices of the world and for celebrities to use their voices to reach a wider audience.
“I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world,” Phoenix said, “and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric worldview – the belief that we’re the center of the universe.”
In Phoenix’s speech, he delivered a message of love, imparting exactly this message: we need to remember our sense of community and our responsibility as human beings. United we stand, divided we fall.
“And I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow,” he added. “That is the best of community.”
Whether or not people agree with Phoenix, it’s hard to forego heavy consideration of his message. Beyond his plea for humankind to fight against injustice—“whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights,” as he said in his speech—Phoenix invoked something even stronger.
He once again reminded us that Hollywood has the power to change the world with film. But not just the people at the top. We all have the power to enact this sense of community in the stories we create.
American Factory, which won for Documentary Feature, highlights the struggle between entrepreneurial China and working-class Americans. In the movie, two countries culturally collide as China reopens closed American factories, providing a picture of the issues facing both Chinese and American working-class people, regardless of nationality. Class welfare, social struggle, and the state of our economy all factor into the movie, showcasing a world where people need to work together and drop the xenophobic attitudes.
American Factory’s win spoke volumes about our current state of affairs and sent a message loud and clear across America. Reminding us many are ready for economic change, and we’re tired of such a huge class divide with richer individuals hogging most of the resources.
credit: Instagram/Bong Joon Ho
Parasite’s wins across the board also hit on the call for justice. The film earned awards for Best Picture, International Feature Film, Original Screenplay, and Best Director. Though entirely fictional and making a point metaphorically, like the presence of ascending and descending stairs, the film focused on class and the battle people at the bottom fight every single day. Parasite was one of the few foreign films to receive a nomination for Best Picture, and the first to win, perhaps suggesting we as a people are ready to embrace other cultures.
Just maybe the messages filmmakers convey are actually being heard.
“But human beings, at our best, are so inventive and creative and ingenious,” Phoenix stated near the end of his speech. “I think that when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.”
In 2020, we’re still fighting every single day, handling battles unique to our own circumstances. Sometimes it may feel like things are changing slowly, or maybe not at all. In those moments, however, it helps to remember speeches from people like Phoenix, and films such as Parasite and American Factory. There are people fighting for social equality and justice for all, even on the days when we can’t see it.
The Oscars ceremony concludes awards season in Hollywood for the year. But hopefully, if nothing else, the awards ceremonies have inspired the current generation to step up and continue creating content which will serve us all and help us grow as a people.