Matt Damon has made headlines this week in The Sunday Times with a story about how his daughter recently told him off for his continued use of the “f-slur for a homosexual” in jokes.
According to The Hollywood Reporter Damon, who is currently starring in Stillwater, was discussing the changing nature of masculinity.
The 50-year-old actor told The Times that until a few months ago, he had freely used the f-slur when telling jokes. On one such occasion, Damon was at the dinner table and his daughter heard him use the homophobic slur and wrote a treatise on why the use of the word is offensive.
The Hollywood Reporter writes that Damon said, “‘Come on, that’s a joke! I say it in the movie Stuck On You!’ She went to her room and wrote a very long, beautiful treatise on how that word is dangerous. I said, ‘I retire the f-slur!’ I understood,” said Damon.
The slur has historically been used to abuse LGBTQIA+ people. Recently, the term has become part of the lexicon, used in jokes that are ostensibly intended to be harmless, however, many gay and queer people still find the word offensive when used by straight people.
Damon’s “retirement” of the word is a step forward, however, there are critics who say that having still used the term up until a few months ago isn’t good enough. Rebecca Alter wrote a Vulture opinion piece in which she critiques Damon’s use of the word to begin with. “It stings especially bad coming from a straight actor who has taken on queer roles in films like Behind The Candelabra and The Talented Mr Ripley,” says Alter.
Celebrities and those with public-facing personas are being called out regularly on Twitter and other social media platforms. It is a move in the right direction to see people take responsibility for their actions and to allow themselves to be educated.
UPDATE: Matt Damon has supplied a statement to The Hollywood Reporter in the face of the backlash from the interview.
Damon said, “During a recent interview, I recalled a discussion I had with my daughter where I attempted to contextualize for her the progress that has been made – though by no means completed – since I was growing up in Boston and, as a child, heard the word ‘f*g’ used on the street before I knew what it even referred to. I explained that that word was used constantly and casually and was even a line of dialogue in a movie of mine as recently as 2003; she in turn expressed incredulity that there could ever have been a time where that word was used unthinkingly. To my admiration and pride, she was extremely articulate about the extent to which that word would have been painful to someone in the LGBTQ+ community regardless of how culturally normalized it was. I not only agreed with her but thrilled at her passion, values and desire for social justice,
“I have never called anyone ‘f****t’ in my personal life and this conversation with my daughter was not a personal awakening. I do not use slurs of any kind. I have learned that eradicating prejudice requires active movement toward justice rather than finding passive comfort in imagining myself ‘one of the good guys.’ And given that open hostility against the LGBTQ+ community is still not uncommon, I understand why my statement led many to assume the worst. To be as clear as I can be, I stand with the LGBTQ+ community,” the statement finished.