Over the weekend, Matt Damon bravely announced that, thanks to the help of his daughter, he is no longer using homophobic slurs. In an interview with The Sunday Times to promote his new movie Stillwater, Damon spoke at length about how his daughter taught him that the F-word was no longer acceptable.
"The word that my daughter calls the 'f-slur for a homosexual' was commonly used when I was a kid, with a different application," Damon explained to The Times on Sunday. "I made a joke, months ago, and got a treatise from my daughter. She left the table. I 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." He also noted in the interview that he shared the story "as part of a wider conversation about changes in modern masculinity."
Damon, who is 50, has three school-aged daughters and a stepdaughter that range in age from 10 to 23. Though he did not divulge which of his kids corrected his language, it's clear from Damon's tone while recounting the anecdote that he's proud of himself for making this change — even in 2021. But the fact that an actor with his level of influence remained ignorant to how dangerous homophobic language is doesn't really deserve any praise.
"So Matt Damon just figured out 'months ago,' by way of a 'treatise' from a child, that he's not supposed to say the word f*ggot. Months ago. Months ago," Director Travon Free wrote on Twitter.
For decades, homophobic slurs — specifically derogatory terms used to explain someone's sexual identity — have been used to demean LGBTQ+ people. Media representations of this were often downplayed in the face of comedy, which, to Damon's point, was cast off as "just a joke!" But there's nothing funny about discriminatory and hateful language like this becoming normalized over the course of generations.
Slurs cause tangible harm, too: Research has shown that homophobic language serves to dehumanize LGBTQ+ people, and being the target of such language has been linked to anxiety and depression amongst middle school students.
"This is the kind of thing forces me to wonder how much homophobic and transphobic shit 'progressive' white cis straight men say behind our backs, and that just really sucks," trans activist Charlotte Clymer tweeted on Sunday. "I get the sentiment, but this is super 101 stuff. This is like 10+ years ago kinda stuff. And he knows better. Sorry, it just doesn't make me feel very good."
Michigan State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky also tweeted that Damon's epiphany is a decade too late. "I have ranch dressing that has been in my fridge longer than Matt Damon has NOT been using a homophobic slur and he somehow thinks he deserves praise for this Herculean effort."
This is not the first time Damon has come under fire for making statements about LGBTQ+ people. In a 2015 interview with The Guardian, the actor suggested that gay actors were better off shielding their sexuality from the public. He later said that his points were "misconstrued," releasing a statement saying that "it is painful when things get said that you don't believe. And then it gets represented that that’s what you believe."
Damon has yet to make a statement after facing backlash over his comments and his efforts to change "modern masculinity" by no longer saying the F-word casually. Perhaps we will have to wait another decade for him to realize that this type of thinking is outdated, though.