Joaquin Phoenix decries the state of humanity, injustice of cow’s milk in Oscars speech

Phoenix fought tears as he concluded his acceptance speech citing his late brother, River: ‘Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow’

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Joaquin Phoenix offered his thoughts on the state of the world as he collected the Best Actor prize for his role as Arthur Fleck in Joker at the 92nd Academy Awards on Sunday.

The star became the second actor to win an Oscar for playing the notorious DC Comics villain, after the late Heath Ledger won the prize for his performance in The Dark Knight in 2008.

Taking the stage, Phoenix said he didn’t believe he deserves the award over his fellow nominees, before launching into a lengthy speech about the state of humanity.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively and I think, at times we feel, or were made to feel, that we champion different causes,” he began. “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.”

Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix, Best Actress Renee Zellweger and Best Supporting Actor Brad Pitt pose in the press room with their Oscars during the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California on February 9, 2020. Frederic J. Brown / AFP

The actor continued, “I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric world view. A belief that we are the centre of the universe.”

Phoenix explained how human beings’ egocentric tendencies allow them to justify things like stripping animals like cows for their babies, milk, meat, and other materials.

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“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and when she gives birth,” Phoenix said while clutching his best actor trophy for “The Joker.” “We steal her baby even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable and then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”

He added, “I have been a scoundrel, selfish, cruel at times and hard to work with, ungrateful.”

Joaquin Phoenix poses with his Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for “Joker” in the photo room during the 92nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 9, 2020. Lucas Jackson / REUTERS

However, the 45-year-old actor got more emotional as he confessed he felt like he’d been given a “second chance”, noting: “I think that’s when we’re at our best. When we support each other. When we help each other to grow, when we guide each other toward redemption, that is the best of humanity.”

Concluding his speech, Phoenix fought tears as he read out a quote from his late brother, River.

“When he was 17, my brother wrote this lyric, he said: ‘Run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.’ Thank you.”

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Here is Phoenix’ full acceptance speech for best supporting actor …

I’m full of so much gratitude now. I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees or anyone in this room, because we share the same love – that’s the love of film. And this form of expression has given me the most extraordinary life. I don’t know where I’d be without it.

But I think the greatest gift that it’s given me, and many people in [this industry] is the opportunity to use our voice for the voiceless. I’ve been thinking about some of the distressing issues that we’ve been facing collectively.

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.

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.

I think we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world. Many of us are guilty of an egocentric world view, and we believe that we’re the centre of the universe. We go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakeable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.

We fear the idea of personal change, because we think we need to sacrifice something; to give something up. But human beings at our best are so creative and inventive, and we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and the environment.

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. 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.

When he was 17, my brother (River) wrote this lyric. He said: “run to the rescue with love and peace will follow.”

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