Jane Fonda received the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2021 Golden Globe Awards on Sunday and powerfully addressed the need for diversity in storytelling in her acceptance speech. The honor celebrated her career, which has spanned five decades, and her activism.
“You know, I have seen a lot of diversity in my long life, and at times I have been challenged to understand some of the people I’ve met, but inevitably, if my heart is open and I look beneath the surface, I feel kinship,” she told viewers.
The actor explained how stories “really can change people” before she pointed out: “But there’s a story we’ve been really afraid to see and hear about ourselves and this industry. The story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out.”
She elaborated that some in Hollywood are “offered a seat at the table” while others are “kept out.”
Fonda implored listeners to “expand that tent so that everyone rises and everyone’s story has a chance to be seen and heard.”
“Let’s be leaders,” she concluded.
Fonda’s speech continued an ongoing plea to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts on the Golden Globes Awards each year, to be more inclusive. The organization of international journalists notably lacks even a single Black member and has not had one in at least the last 20 years.
In a lackluster attempt to address the controversy, HFPA President Ali Sar, Vice President Helen Hoehne and former President Meher Tatna spoke 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.”
Tatna went on to say: “We must also ensure everyone from all underrepresented communities gets a seat at our table, and we are going to make that happen.”
Many on social media couldn’t help but acknowledge that Fonda’s emphatic speech did more to address the HFPA’s diversity issues than the HFPA itself:
The 83-year-old Fonda, who has seven Globes of her own, is known for her iconic roles in films like “Barbarella” and “9 to 5” and, most recently, in the TV show “Grace and Frankie.”
Hollywood Foreign Press Association President Ali Sar said in a statement that Fonda’s “breadth of work has been anchored in her unrelenting activism, using her platform to address some of the most important social issues of our time.”
“Her undeniable talent has gained her the highest level of recognition, and while her professional life has taken many turns, her unwavering commitment to evoking change has remained,” he said.
Previous Cecil B. DeMille Award honorees include Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. In 2014, Fonda received an AFI lifetime achievement award.