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(Credit: Alamy)

Film Opinion:

Why are people surprised by Matt Damon's recent toxic comments?

Recently, Matt Damon had a fascinating revelation about the heteronormative framework within which we exist and the power of the words we use. He “retire[d] the f-slur” when one of his daughters wrote a thesis about why the use of such derogatory terms should be condemned. This is not of the first of Damon’s many epiphanies, not by a long shot. Among some of his other cultural awakenings are nuggets of wisdom about the #MeToo movement and diversity in filmmaking.

Back when the #MeToo movement was gaining momentum, the central topic of most discourses led by survivors of sexual assault were the predatory men and their vile actions. Matt Damon, being the ‘alternative thinker’ that he is, complained that not enough people were talking about the ‘good guys’, stating: “We’re in this watershed moment, and it’s great, but I think one thing that’s not being talked about is there are a whole s—load of guys — the preponderance of men I’ve worked with — who don’t do this kind of thing and whose lives aren’t going to be affected.”

In a separate interview, Damon attempted to deconstruct the ethical spectrum of sexual assault by creating distinctions between one instance of sexual violence from another: “I do believe that there’s a spectrum of behaviour… And we’re going to have to figure — you know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviours need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”.

At the time, Damon could not wrap his massive head around the fact that his comments inevitably trivialise the experiences of survivors who are still traumatised by what they were subjected to. That includes “patting someone on the butt” without their consent, Matt Damon. Since Damon retracted his comments and apologised for the vitriol later, most people assumed that he had learned his lessons.

In a 2018 article, Martha Ross of The Mercury News even wrote an optimistic piece about Damon titled: “Maybe Matt Damon has finally learned to stop saying stupid things about #MeToo and so much else.” Sadly, Damon has proven Ross wrong with great aplomb. It should come as no surprise to anyone since Damon’s stupidity predates the #MeToo movement.

He has insisted, in a conversation with film producer Effie T. Brown, that diversity only matters for the spectacle. According to Damon, it is of no consequence whether filmmakers emerge from diverse backgrounds as long as there is diversity in the casting of projects. Damon religiously argued that tokens of representation matter more than actual representation since tokens are enough to pacify the masses.

As for Damon’s newfound understanding of the hostility towards homosexuality in our sociocultural paradigm, he is the same guy who said this: “I think you’re a better actor the less people know about you, period. And sexuality is a huge part of that. Whether you’re straight or gay, people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play.”

Despite all his apologies and attempts to cover up his past comments, Matt Damon is a changed man now because his daughter convinced him to stop using the “f-slur” in 2021. Given Matt Damon’s history, a lot of us are wondering the same thing that Billy Eichner is thinking: