(Note: The following open letter originally ran on Fusion.net and is reprinted with permission from the network and Alicia Menendez.)
Dear Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto,
This weekend, in anticipation of the Golden Globes, I watched "Dallas Buyers Club." You were both amazing. I laughed. I cried. And above all else, I was moved by the reality of HIV and AIDS as a death sentence a mere 30 years ago.
Matthew... you nailed the evolution from cowboy to rogue HIV pioneer. Jared... your portrayal of the sensitive trans sex-worker, Rayon, was warm and brilliant. You both truly became your characters: desperate, crafty and impassioned.
I was so happy to see you both win Golden Globes. I was less thrilled with your acceptance speeches. Jared you rambled on about your "bubble butt" and the pains of waxing. Matthew, you rattled off a series of personal thanks you without mentioning the inspiration for the script you said was an "underdog" from the start.
Jared, let's start with you.
As Daniel D'Addario argues at Salon:
It may have been difficult for [Leto] to wax [his] entire body, but it's sort of a weird punch line for a person whose entire role was about body discomfort and the painful modifications one must make to feel ok with oneself. [Leto] got money and at least one award for playing [his] part in 'Dallas Buyers Club'; it's strange that [he] didn't take into account the notion that [his] struggle was not, in fact, the most important one involved in [his] role.
Matthew, your speech lacked a similar awareness. As Tyler Coates over at Flavor Wire notes:
Two straight white men win yet again for playing characters afflicted with a disease that wiped out millions of people, the vast majority of whom were not straight white men. Is it too much to ask that, even at Hollywood's "most irreverent" awards show, there be some respectful acknowledgement of the real-life people whose struggles and eventual deaths provided [Leto and McConaughey] the chance to play these characters and eventually win awards for their work?
Like Tyler, I really would have loved it if you'd used this national platform in front of some of the bougiest, most influential Americans to remind everyone that HIV and AIDS persists as a reality. Prove to us that you're the great actors I think you are by demonstrating that you've been touched and transformed by a reality that isn't your own. After all more than 35 million people are living with HIV worldwide, 1.1 million live in the United States. We can't pretend that just because the risk of HIV has declined for some that it has been eradicated for all.
Luckily I suspect you'll have another opportunity to deliver an acceptance speech soon. If you win an Oscar, more people will see your speech than watch the State of the Union. Last year's Academy Awards boasted 40.3 million viewers.
And you certainly wouldn't be the first actors to use the platform for good.
In 1973, Marlon Brando had an Apache woman accept his award for Best Actor as a protest of Hollywood's portrayal of Native Americans in films.
Twenty one years later, Tom Hanks won Best Actor for his portrayal of a lawyer suffering from AIDS in the critically acclaimed "Philadelphia." He spoke about the dilemma of doing justice to the millions of individuals that inspired his character and the film.
Five years ago, when Sean Penn won for his role in "Milk" he advocated for marriage equality, stating that it was time that for "equal rights for everyone."
"Dallas Buyers Club" was an underdog...you said it yourself, Matthew. It took over 20 years to make, and was passed on 86 times before you got the right team together to breathe life into the script. But the story itself is an underdog too. Give it the voice it deserves.