Time: McConaughey’s ‘confounding’ speech at Oscars

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Did you hear that awkward sound at the Oscars last night, the one right after Matthew McConaughey offered his thoughts on the meaning of life, family and, perhaps, Pilgrim’s Progress? Here’s the quote that is getting so much cyber-ink today:

“First off I want to thank God, because he’s the one I look up to, he’s graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human kind. He has shown me that it’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates. In the words of the late (British actor) Charlie Laughton, who said, ‘When you got God, you got a friend and that friend is you.’”

The only really mysterious part of that is the “and that friend is you” part at the end of that section of the speech where McConaughey pointed out toward, but slightly above, the rather shocked audience. Was the actor — previously known more for his ripped torso than his theological views — saying that individuals in Hollywood, if they embrace God, can finally come to peace with their complicated relationships with, well, themselves?

The confounded editorial team at the Time entertainment section tried to sum up the mini-sermon this way. Here’s the headline:

Explaining Matthew McConaughey’s Confounding Acceptance Speech

We parse it all for you — “Amen and Alright Alright Alright”

And then:

After winning for his role as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyer’s Club, Matthew McConaughey launched into a semi-bizarre tale about his inner life. Here is what we learned:

1. He needs someone to look up to, something to look forward to and someone to chase.

2. He wants to thank God, who he looks up to. God is all about gratitude.

3. He wants to thank his family, who he looks forward to. His deceased father, he believes, is celebrating with a big pot of gumbo and a can of Miller Lite. His mother, still with us, taught him how to respect himself.

4. The person he chases is himself, 10 years into the future. He knows he will never catch up, but he wants to find out who that guy will turn out to be.

5. To all of that, he says “Amen,” ”Alright, Alright, Alright” and “Keep on Livin’.”

Now, if you watch the whole speech — which I urge you to do — it seems that the Time entertainment team was hearing most of his words, but failed to grasp the meaning of this particular meditation. For example, what’s up with the “God is all about gratitude” part, unless Time is saying that the “all about” reference is slang noting that God is pro-gratitude.

If so, “amen” to that and we can move on. Here at GetReligion, we are “all about” clarity.

The key to me, in terms of journalism, is that the actor walked up the pulpit — uh, microphone — with something very specific and thought out to say and that this short sermon had three specific, connected points (but no poem).

In other words, it is hard to mention the third key part — McConaughey’s impossible quest to be worthy of serving as his own hero — without framing that reference in the context of his remarks about God and family. Now, writing about the whole package would be hard to do in a daily news story and I know that. This is tricky stuff.

For example, consider this passage in the Los Angeles Times daily on the Oscars broadcast:

Matthew McConaughey, who lost some 40 pounds to star in (and persuade reluctant financiers to back) the AIDS drama “Dallas Buyers Club,” was the lead actor winner.

“Every day, every week, every month and every year of my life my hero is always 10 years away,” McConaughey said of how he keeps chasing himself. “I’m never going to be my hero … that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”

Now what in the world does that mean, when unplugged from his references to faith and family? It almost seems that the actor, whose private life certainly seems to have evolved in recent years, is saying that he is trying to grow up — the context appears to be spiritual maturity — and become a man who is more worthy of the love of God, his wife, his family and, ultimately, himself. Can he complete this race? He knows that this is beyond his own efforts, but the goal is to try.

So have a blessed Lent, Mr. McConaughey.

Now, I realize that journalists could not stop the Oscars train last night and try to write a story about this actor’s private life. However, this was one of the more interesting acceptance speeches of the night and it appears to have created a bit of a hushed silence, followed by a buzz. Was this man actually saying that he is some kind of a, well, Christian?

Of course, it has been two years since the paparazzi literally chased McConaughey and his fiance (at that time) after church during the Cannes Film Festival. That led to this material in The Daily Mail:

The couple that prays together, stays together.

Matthew McConaughey and his long-term love Camila Alves were spotted leaving a Cannes church together yesterday. …

The Christian couple, who originally met at a Los Angeles bar in 2006, are regularly seen attending mass with their two children, three-year-old son Levi and two-year-old daughter Vida, at a church near their $4 million, seven-bedroom home in Austin, Texas.

Yes, there is a bit more on the family angle:

According to Camila, marriage is more a formality to the life they already built together. ‘We’ve been living a married life this whole time,’ the brunette beauty said.

‘A lot of people, sometimes they’re so stuck on “I gotta get married, I gotta get married.” They forget that the really important thing is to have a healthy home, a healthy family, a healthy environment for your kids and to have everything going in a good, peaceful way.’

However, Camila added that solidifying their bond legally is definitely a good thing for their children.

Lots of interesting information in there, including the regular Mass attendance.

So if a journalist attempted to follow up on the content of the Oscar speech, after looking at the connections between the three sections of the text, would it help or hurt McConaughey in postmodern Hollywood?

Just asking. This could be an interesting story. Stay tuned.

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Gordis85

    May God richly bless Matthew McConaughey and his family. Trying while believing and going against the grain while doing so…well, that’s worth it all.

  • TeaPot562

    It would be a healthy example to the youth and young adults who make such a fuss about prominent actors and actresses if more of them would acknowledge that their talents are a gift from God and thank Him for them.
    Attending Mass with his family, as Mr. McConaughey reputedly does on a regular basis, is also commendable as a good example. May there be more like him.
    TeaPot562

  • Thomas Gallagher

    The hero that Mr. McConaughey is chasing is himself? Himself ten years from now, apparently meaning the self as it shall have evolved and developed in ten years’ time? Or does he mean the self as it shall have evolved in ten years by the Grace of God? Nothing wrong with trying to be the best Matthew he can be, just as we can, I think, see Benedict XVI as a man who has striven all his life to become the best Joseph Ratzinger he can be.

    But there’s nothing in Mr. McConaughey’s convoluted prose to indicate that he’s hoping to become the man God wants him to be, and not merely the man Matthew McC wants him to be, is there? There’s the rub. One can admire his (now) wife for getting him to marry her (after the kids were born–but it’s never too late!) and having him take her to Mass. And of course we can’t know whether he’s done these things on his own, or merely to please her. (Nothing wrong with pleasing your wife.) But if we need to see Mr. McConaughey as a model of Hollywood Christian virtue, then we’re getting rather desperate for role models, are we not?

  • rod mason

    I’m with you all the way on this one, Thomas Gallagher; and I lived in Hollywood from around 2 through my 21st birthday, another time for sure, and tinseltown is nothing if not interesting. The narcissism is so thick with the celebrity culture surrounding it, you’d need the proverbial knife to cut through it. And the selfishness. So, like you’ve said, is this the growing-up speech, on the cutting edge of pure emotionalism, that MConaughey delivered after his Oscar win? Hard to know for sure, But, as you said so well, yeah, we really seem to be getting desperate for role models. But Matthew McC is surely a refreshing character. I just hope his seemingly new-found values and his marriage do last through what will inevitably happen as he pursues his successful movie career; more bouts with narcissism and selfishness.

  • hcat

    I can’t tell whether he’s Christian, Moralistic Stoic Deist, Moralistic Therapeutic Deist, or Catharist, but in that context, good for him anyhow.

  • alwr

    Could we just stop trying to turn celebrities into Christians? We don’t need famous Christians in order to pursue our own faith life. It seems shallow to me when everyone jumps all over the slightest indication that some celebrity thinks like we do.

  • Suzy Malavasic

    I think if we checked his ancestry, it is most likely heavily Catholic… which would mean that lots of people with the Lord may be praying with and for Matthew McConaughey. I also thought it interesting that before he went up to the podium, he went to Chiwetel Ejiofor, who also was nominated, and they hugged. I work in Nigeria among the Igbo tribe, which is 80% Catholic… and orthodox Catholic. I have many Igbo friends, even in the USA, whose last name is Ejiofor. I wonder if Matthew and Chiwetel had already agreed, if either of them won, they would congrats to the other… and perhaps make similar acceptance speeches. As a convert to Catholicism… I am very aware that I am continually deepining and growing in my faith… due to the sacramental graces of the Church. Going to Mass regularly can do that!

  • Oliver Charlesworth

    ‘When you got God, you got a friend and that friend is you.’ Roughly translated ‘I am God.’

    • adm

      Sardonicism aside… By ‘Roughly’ do you mean wRongly? haha. I’d say it infers self respect and developing friendship with one-self. Playing on the expression of: ‘all I need is God’.

  • Oh Azure Azure

    When I found that Mcconaughey was Religious didn’t bothered me at all, On the contrary actually, Rust being intellectually one of my favorite characters of all time earned my admiration and it was refreshing to find a character that wasn’t dominated by the indoctrination most of us are forced into since our early years. and even if its catholic !!! Being a well informed activist know of the many crimes and horrors orchestrated by the Vatican, as a former catholic and being the member of a VERY catholic family actually makes me proud that someone from the christian branch is capable of such of an amazing performance and put aside their credo . I love the guy and this only shows what happens when we focus on the beautiful things and great attributes about someone and not on what they follow…. I personally was almost a nun years ago read the bible day and night, church all the time, taught children about it and I believe to be 100 times a much better person now that I left behind the trinkets of religious dogma . But good in humanity can be found regardless of what we follow , and this should suffice, is a shame we are taught in religion that only those who follow our believes are to be exalted and considered like us being the chosen ones and the only ones who are walking in the right steps and all others to be heathens. But we are young regardless of the technological and scientific advances, almost primitive I would say and I have faith in evolution and that one day we can all look at each other with love and respect without thinking that only those who follow our paths are in the right one. ;P


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