Thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the honor, the actress addressed the need for diversity in storytelling — something the HFPA has long been criticized for.
Jane Fonda accepted her Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement at the 2021 Golden Globe Awards on Sunday by calling on Hollywood to make sure that everyone's stories are told. Thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HPFA) for the honor — which celebrated her illustrious career and activism — the actress appeared to make a not-so-subtle dig at the organization's notorious lack of diversity. "You know, we are a community of storytellers, aren't we? And in turbulent, crisis-torn times like these, storytelling has always been essential," she began in her speech. "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," Fonda continued. "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, Mohammed, Jesus, Laozi — 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. 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."
Fonda went on to list many of the works that inspired and educated her in the past year. "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 Acts,' 'US vs. Billie Holiday,' 'Ma Rainey,' 'One Night in Miami,' and others have deepened my empathy for what being Black has meant," the 83-year-old said. "'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."
Jane Fonda: "Stories can change people, but there's a story we have been afraid to see and hear about ourselves and this industry. The story about which voices we respect and elevate, and which we tune out" https://t.co/gMrpbjjqwe pic.twitter.com/b7CHv8bsiK— Variety (@Variety) March 1, 2021
"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," she continued. Fonda implored everyone — "including all the groups that decide who gets hired and what gets made and who wins awards" — to "make an effort to expand that tent so that everyone rises and everyone's story has a chance to be seen and heard."
Jane Fonda rules and has always ruled. Imagine getting a lifetime achievement award for yourself and spending the entire speech lifting up other people. Cool shit!— Chase Mitchell (@ChaseMit) March 1, 2021
Jane Fonda receives the Cecil B. DeMille award, with a beautiful speech about inclusion, diversity, and leadership that quite clearly takes aim at the HFPA's lack of all 3.#GoldenGlobes #HFPA #BitesizeBreakdown— Bitesize Breakdown (@bitesizebreak) March 1, 2021
"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, OK?" she concluded. According to HuffPost, the 9 to 5 star's speech continued an ongoing plea to the HFPA — the organization of international journalists which notably lacks even a single Black member and has not had one in at least the last two decades — to be more inclusive.
HFPA President Ali Sar, Vice President Helen Hoehne, and former President Meher Tatna made a lackluster attempt to address the issue in their speeches during Sunday's broadcast. "On behalf of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, thank you for joining us tonight to celebrate the work of artists from around the globe; we recognize we have our own work to do," said Hoehne. "Just like in film and television, Black representation is vital. We must have Black journalists in our organization." Meanwhile, Tatna went on to say that "we must also ensure everyone from all underrepresented communities gets a seat at our table, and we are going to make that happen."
Can the HFPA hire Jane Fonda as their Diversity & Inclusion Manager? She is eloquently explaining the importance of diverse storytelling better than your 15 second apology speech about needing to do better 🙄 #GoldenGlobes— ThatGirlSima (@sima_ganaba) March 1, 2021