Joaquin Phoenix Calls About ‘Systemic Racism’ in Film Industry

No matter what someone thinks of Joaquin Phoenix and his acting, it’s undeniable he’s conscientious about what he’s doing. Phoenix isn’t afraid to broach the difficult subjects in Hollywood.

After winning a BAFTA award in Great Britain for his role as Arthur Fleck in Joker, Phoenix used his acceptance speech to make up for not mentioning social injustices in prior award speeches.

There’s a lot of concern about award shows not being diverse enough. Phoenix may have opened a big Pandora’s Box during his BAFTA acceptance speech. It created a lot of jaw drops, but might have changed his own future image.

Phoenix calling out himself as part of the systemic racism problem

Joaquin Phoenix looking off camera wearing a tuxedo
Joaquin Phoenix | Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

The acceptance speech Phoenix gave at the BAFTA Awards on Feb. 2 was posted all over social media within minutes after it aired. It displayed something seldom seen in any award show: an actor taking personal responsibility for the racism still prevalent in the film industry.

Saying this to a British audience was profound, considering the accusations of racism from the British press against Meghan Markle.

When Phoenix expounded on the “systemic racism” permeating the movie business, it stunned the audience into silence. More than a few people were shocked at his candor. Nevertheless, everyone erupted in applause after he made his comments.

Several black British actors in the audience were shown looking amazed that Phoenix opened this subject up in such a public setting.

Did the speech make up for criticism of Phoenix in recent years?

Many have felt Phoenix is definitely part of the problem, not including being a little too arrogant at times. When he won the Golden Globe for his Joker role, many felt his quirkiness spilled over when he called out a journalist who asked a question he’d heard one too many times.

His speech at the Globes might not have fully addressed many concerns that Joker has provoked. While Phoenix has argued in favor of the movie in interviews, there seems to be some conflict on his feelings about it.

The notion another white man winning over more deserving actors of color seems to have brought Phoenix to a boiling point. The big question now is whether his influence can really enact any change.

Let’s not forget Phoenix’s family runs an organization for social justice issues

In a recent 60 Minutes interview with Phoenix and Anderson Cooper, the Phoenix family’s organization for tackling social justice issues, named after the late River Phoenix, came up. Issues of social importance are clearly important to Joaquin, making his speech at the BAFTAs all the more believable.

At the same time, many social justice warriors have gone after Phoenix for agreeing to act in Joker. This conflict about the Arthur Fleck character is what drew him to the project, showing he may look at the art of a project before its social impact.

While even that might make people scratch their heads, Phoenix’s comments about race will likely resonate. Whether he can take proactive steps to really change anything is another thing. Since his acting stance and thoughts seem singular, it might be more challenging to see real change occur in the immediate term.