Why Jane Fonda Spoke In Sign Language At Oscars?

In 1972, after winning her first Academy Award for her role in ‘Klute‘, Fonda came under fire for visiting Hanoi, Vietnam and posing with the North Vietnamese army. She earned the nickname “Hanoi Jane” and was vilified in American media.

Fonda won the Academy Award for Best Actress for ‘Coming Home‘, which, ironically enough, was a drama about the Vietnam War. In her acceptance speech, Fonda used American Sign Language as she spoke, and explained why in an honest and powerful way.

Jane Fonda explained why she gave her speech in sign language. “I’m so happy. I wanted to win very much because I’m so proud of Coming Home, and I want many people to see the movie,” she said, gesturing her hands and looking into the camera.

“I’m signing part of what I’m saying tonight because while we were making the movie, we all became more aware of the problems of the handicapped. Over 14 million people are deaf. They are the invisible handicapped and can’t share this evening, so this is my way of acknowledging them.”

Fonda mentions that deaf viewers can’t share the evening because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rejected her plea to provide closed captions for the ceremony. Naturally, she took it upon herself to speak directly to the deaf in her speech. 

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