What, exactly, is going on with Matt Damon?
In an interview with the Sunday Times published over the weekend, the actor—seemingly out of the blue—admitted to having used the f-word “some months ago.” He said he only stopped after his daughter wrote an impassioned “treatise,” explaining why the slur is offensive.
But with the passage of the last 24 hours or so, Damon’s story has changed completely. Now, Damon is staunchly maintaining that he’s never used the word, in his personal life or otherwise. And actually, he doesn’t use “any slurs of any kind,” he said.
In a lengthy statement to Variety, Damon portrayed the Sunday Times interview as a misunderstanding, which “led many to believe the worst.” Damon explained that he’d told the anecdote to illustrate how much “progress ... has been made” on the social justice front. As a child growing up in Boston, Damon told the outlet, he’d “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 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.
Damon concluded his remarks with the boilerplate we’ve come to expect from public figures in this situation: “To be as clear as I can be, I stand with the LGBTQ+ community,” he said.
And so to return to my earlier queries: What is going on with Matt Damon? And what happened between Sunday morning—when his original comments were published—and Monday evening, when...well, this.
I attempted to answer the first question last night, when I speculated that Damon likely still doesn’t understand why the slur is so reprehensible. If he did, he would not have readily admitted to using it so recently. I continue to believe that this is the case, which means Damon must not have expected the backlash he faced as a result of his offhand confession. And so, in the intervening 24 hours, a publicist of some kind surely swooped in and crafted the above statement in an attempt to explain away Damon’s gaffe.
Unfortunately, it’s not very convincing. And even if we took Damon at his (read: his publicist’s) word, what would that leave us with? An oblivious actor making some kind of hackneyed remark about “how far we’ve come”? No thanks!