While accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award, handed out for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment,” Jane Fonda called for increased diversity in Hollywood. The segment began with a handful of celebrities praising Fonda’s achievements as an actress and activist, including Kerry Washington, who noted that “there is a lot of glass on the floor from all of the ceilings that she has shattered.”
Fonda accepted the award in person at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles and gave a speech that began by recognizing the power storytellers have to “change our hearts and minds.”
“I’ve seen a lot of diversity in my long life and at times I’ve 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 said. “That’s why all the great conduits of perception — Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus, Lao Tzu — all of them spoke to us in stories and poetry and metaphor. Because the nonlinear, non-cerebral forms that are art speak on a different frequency. They generate a new energy that can zolt us open and penetrate our defenses so we can see and hear what we may not have been seeing and hearing.”
The actress and activist praised nominated films such as “Nomadland” and “Minari” for helping her understand other communities, as well as “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Small Axe,” “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “One Night in Miami” for deepening “my empathy for what being Black has meant.”
She also acknowledged television series such as “Ramy” and “I May Destroy You,” the latter of which was notably snubbed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
“But there’s been a story we’ve been afraid to see and hear about ourselves in this industry — a story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out, a story about who’s offered a seat at the table and who is kept out of the rooms where decisions are made,” Fonda continued. “So let’s all of us, including all the groups that decide who gets hired and what gets made and who wins awards, let’s all of us make an effort to expand that tent so that everyone rises and everyone’s story has a chance to be seen and heard.”