Jane Fonda is called ‘ahead of her time’ as video of her signing at 1979 Oscars resurfaces


Jane Fonda called for representation in Hollywood, 42 years after

Jane Fonda called for representation in Hollywood, 42 years after “revolutionary” use of sign language at the Oscars. (Getty Images)

A video of Jane Fonda using sign language during her Oscars acceptance speech for her performance in 1979’s Coming Home is resurfacing once again after the actress called for greater representation in Hollywood at Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards.

The 83-year-old Grace and Frankie star accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award in acknowledgment of her “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.” In her speech, she called on Hollywood to get “in step with the emerging diversity” within the industry.

Someone on Twitter then shared the clip from Fonda’s 1979 Best Actress Oscar acceptance speech to show that she has been championing inclusivity since before it was a larger conversation, writing, “Never forget when Jane Fonda signed her best actress acceptance speech for the 1979 Oscars because the academy wouldn’t offer closed captions.”

The video of Fonda explaining that the over 14 million people in the world are the “invisible handicapped” who “can’t share this evening” because of the lack of accessibility garnered over five million views.

Although the video has been shared before, many called Fonda’s use of American Sign Language during that time “revolutionary” and likened it to her speech on Sunday evening where she called on artists to be “leaders.”

Others also included a video of Louise Fletcher who used ASL during her acceptance speech for Best Actress at the Oscars in 1976.

Rachel Shenton similarly used British Sign Language during her Oscars acceptance speech in 2018 for the short film The Silent Child.

Despite these few examples of accessibility on award show stages, people are pointing out that Hollywood has a way to go. Fonda’s acknowledgment of that at Sunday’s Golden Globes, in addition to the many people who called out the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for not having a single Black member, seems to be a start.

“After all, art has always been not just in step with history but has led the way,” Fonda said on Sunday. “So let’s be leaders.”

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