Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Matthew McConaughey: Giving A Man The Benefit Of A Doubt

Matthew McConaughey has taken it on the chin quite a bit since his Oscar acceptance speech a couple of nights ago.  Some did not like his reference to God.  Some were offended that he might have even implied that man is a god. Some did not like his reference to himself as a hero.  They thought he was arrogant.  Some were put off because he didn’t give due deference to the AIDS victim he portrayed whose story made possible his opportunity. For them it should have been a speech promoting one of the darling causes of Hollywood, similar to the first one we heard that night. Some thought the speech was practiced and insincere. Yet others thought it was just another expression of his selfish self-centeredness. All made their cases by reference to various things he said in his brief remarks.

In an attempt to give the man the benefit of a doubt I located a transcript of what he said. A close reading, if accepted at face value, meets most of the criticisms.  Which would suggest to me that his critics had their own agendas to promote, or they just don’t know how to read very well. Many are so busy reading “between the lines” they forget to read the lines too.  

First, it should be noted that he was giving the audience a small insight into what is important and what motivates him in life.  He said, “There’s a few things--about three things to my account--that I need each day. One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase.”  Those may not be my motivations, they may not be your motivations, or those of his critics, but he acknowledged they are his.  When you think about them, they aren’t bad.  He looks up to God, he looks forward to his family, and he chases his dream of what he could be in the future.  The problem is that in some ways these identify him as a step-child of Hollywood.  They separate him in a couple of important ways.  Few among his audience or his critics look up to God. Many of them have rejected the traditional notion of marriage and family for a more “enlightened” and “liberated” view of sex as recreational, marriage commitment as inhibiting their individuality or the pursuit of their own version of “the dream,” and children as burdens.  

He said two important things about God, which few in the “artistic community,” “the beautiful  people,” the avaunt guard of society who were his audience in the hall the other evening wanted to hear.  He acknowledged that God had given him his opportunities and that God responds to our gratitude.  One might quibble with the way he worded his sentiments, but what exactly do people find troubling about the sentiments themselves? Well, for non-believers it goes against the grain to think that they didn’t get to the top on the basis of their own talent; therefore, gratitude to some unseen super power is not important to them.  In fact, gratitude to many may be passe.

The third thing he said about God was cryptic and I don’t pretend to know his mind as to how he meant it.  I leave it to the critics to wrangle over.  Perhaps McConaughey will explain further some day.  Based on the first two things he said, I’m willing to give him the benefit of a doubt.  I doubt that he had some sinister subliminal message.

What’s the big deal about thanking his family?  I heard nearly every recipient that night thank some portion of their family.  He thanked his mother for demanding that he and his brothers respect themselves, and thereby he learned to better respect others.  Some of his critics could have used that lesson from their own parents. His wife and children were praised and thanked because of the courage they gave him to go out each day to his work and to do it well. Is not that what families are supposed to do? Why criticize the man because he loved and missed his deceased red-necked dad?

I suppose the most strident critiques came in reference to his hero–the one he chases.  He said that he dreams of being a hero someday down the road ten years and he chases that dream.  But, when he gets there he hasn’t succeeded because his hero is still out ahead of him ten years. “Well,” huff the critics, “the man just said he is his own hero.  What an arrogant &@#!”  I have yet to see, hear, or read where any of these thought police have quoted what he said at the end of that little story: “ I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”  

In this imaginative way McConaughey captured two things that have been part of the “American Dream” that has been at the heart of Hollywood since its beginning, but which in their now elitist-liberal-agenda driven and insular world, they have forgotten or abandoned. First, that is the “American Dream”–to continue to chase it, to not be satisfied with one’s present achievements and victories.  Second, the fundamental idea of competing against yourself–of continually striving to become better and better at what you do.  But because he cast that in the rhetoric of “hero” he is lambasted because heroes are supposed to be somebody else we admire.  He admires only himself, they shout to us.  But in making a man an offender for a word, they missed his point entirely.  

I’m for giving Matthew McConaughey the benefit of a doubt, and wish him every success in the future, if Hollywood will only be broad minded enough to let him have one after so grievously offending them.

Lets think together again, soon.

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