'Dallas Buyer's Club' Speeches Disappoint

by Anneliese Cooper

Dallas Buyer's Club's Robin Mathews famously did all of the film's make-up with only a $250 budget for supplies — and now, that's garnered Mathews an Academy Award. Along with hairstylist Adruitha Lee, Mathews took the stage to accept her statuette for Best Make-Up and Hairstyling, and in addition to her fairly standard set of thank yous, she added: "And finally, for the victims of AIDS, we are blessed to be able to bring your story—" and before the sentence was through, Twitter exploded. While her sentiment certainly seemed genuine, it's easy enough to understand why people might be troubled with her phrasing. Though she did indeed do a beautiful job, the idea of being "blessed" to express the tribulations of others rings a bit inappropriate, if not capitalizing.

Meanwhile, only minutes earlier in the first award of the night, Jared Leto snatched a trophy for his Dallas Buyer's Club role as the transwoman character Rayon. Leto's speech was certainly leaps ahead of his Golden Globes offering, which featured jokes about whole-body waxes and was pretty light on the gravitas. Tonight, at least he brought up the 36 million deaths from AIDS (also, political protests in Venezuela and the Ukraine, because if you have a microphone, why not?). It certainly seems like he read HuffPo's speech suggestions.

Still, a number of people were unsatisfied that Leto once again failed to specifically mention trans* people, which, given that he has now been repeatedly lauded for playing one, seems like a legitimate gripe — especially given the high rates of violence and discrimination that transwomen specifically face on a daily basis. And, to top it all off, NBC Tweeted Leto's win by calling his character a "transvestite," proving yet again, à la the Piers Morgan–Janet Mock debacle, that some are still all a-stumble when it comes to speaking about LGBT issues.

Is it Internet oversensitivity? Maybe in part; the crowd-mentality "Who can snark first" of Twitter certainly tends to stoke these kinds of fires. Still, overall, these are legitimate complaints about Mathews and Leto, and they deserve to be heard — and learned from. Maybe the next public address, digital or otherwise, will finally give the topic the respect it deserves.