Jeffrey Tambor's Sundance Speech Reminds Hollywood Of Their Responsibility To Be Allies
The Amazon series Transparent, which stars Jeffrey Tambor as a transgender woman named Maura, has been picking up steam since Transparent won two Golden Globes: Tambor for Best Actor in a Comedy Series and the show for Best Musical or Comedy. The actor gave a moving acceptance speech at the awards ceremony, taking care to thank the cast and the series creator Jill Soloway especially for "the responsibility," and of course expressed his gratitude and admiration of the transgender community for allowing the show to be part of the change and the conversation. At the Sundance Film Festival on Monday, Tambor was awarded the IMDb STARmeter Award for his role as Maura, formerly Mort, and gave another pointed and personal speech that focused on the timeliness and gravity of the show. As far as allies go, Tambor is a pretty damn good one.
In his speech, the actor recounted meeting at Sundance the parents of a child, around 8 or 9 years old, named Jessie, who thanked Tambor for Transparent and said that their family was bonding over the show. "Jessie has gone to his parents and said, 'Mom, dad, I'm not a boy-boy.' And that's who we're talking to... this is about saving lives." Tambor has never once let his audience and his peers in Hollywood forget the power and responsibility of television and comedy, and, beyond talking about all the praise and appreciation for Transparent, he also is acutely aware of the criticism.
In an interview on the street of the festival, Tambor acknowledged the pushback to Transparent — that it's a series about a transgender woman that stars a straight, white man. But he feels this criticism only deepens and furthers the visibility and understanding of the LGBT community: "The conversation needs to go forward and forward and forward and forward... here’s a little pushback, and that’s part of the conversation, too."
Tambor and co-star Kathyn Hahn also expressed appreciation for Obama's acknowledgment of the injustices against the LGBT community in his State of the Union address, saying with awe, "It's huge." And it really is a huge moment in history for the propelling of civil rights for the LGBT community. Tambor's talent and careful portrayal of Maura ,coupled with his awareness that he is representing a community that he is not a part of, is a rare and admirable combination from an actor. Being an ally is a difficult path to navigate, especially with the scrutiny of the public on Hollywood actors, but Tambor's attitude is just about as good as you can get.
In his speech accepting the IMDB award, Tambor went on to tearfully say, "The storytellers in this room, we have a responsibility to the transgender community, and indeed to anyone who is being otherized in the world." Often Hollywood is apt to forget that it does not exist in an artistic vacuum, but rather has the power to be an influence on society. Tambor is the kind of talent and ally that Hollywood needs, especially when it's entrenched in its cis-whiteness, as evidenced by the 2015 Oscar nominations. The responsibility to increase visibility of the marginalized is necessary for Hollywood to fulfill, and Transparent sets a powerful precedent.
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