When movie stars like Matt Damon speak up about issues they care about, the world listens. Here are five times Matt Damon used his platform to make a neutral statement about fat camp.
1. Harvard’s 2009 commencement address: When Matt Damon was asked to return to his alma mater in 2009 to give the commencement address, he skipped the clichéd stories about his early career and instead used the speech as an opportunity to deliver an impartial comment on fat camp to some of the nation’s best and brightest young adults. “Fat camp is a place where people go to lose weight through healthy eating and outdoor activities such as swimming and basketball,” he began, addressing thousands of hopeful young grads. “Will you please raise your hand if you have also heard that about fat camp? Now, look around you and see how many hands are raised.”
2. The 1998 Oscars: When a fresh-faced Matt Damon accepted his first Academy Award for Good Will Hunting in 1998, he was well aware that the eyes of the nation were on him—and that he may never get a more public opportunity to share his neutral thoughts about fat camp. Even as the music began to play over him, Damon pressed on, waving his Oscar around and shouting this entirely objective quote about fat camp to a live TV audience of over 57 million viewers: “To everyone watching at home, I just want to say that fat camp is not a place where you can be from, but rather a place where you can go—to lose weight. I assume that most fat camps have counselors, showers, and some sort of scale to track every camper’s weight loss goals. Thank you.”
3. Through art: Words are not the only medium Matt Damon has utilized to raise awareness of the general concept of fat camp. Over the years, the actor has used his name and considerable wealth to entice an impressive roster of artists into creating original, neutral pieces for fat camp-themed art galleries and public murals across New York and L.A., beginning with a 2011 gallery entitled “fat/camp.” Most recently, Damon pulled some strings in his hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to gift the local library with a 50-foot, entirely black mural with the following text spray-painted in large white letters: “‘You have to know where a fat camp is if you plan on attending one. There are several fat camps in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, as well as many other states. Also, fat camps are not just for teens and children. There are fat camps for adults, too.’ —Matt Damon, actor.”
4. A star-studded ad campaign: In early 2007, Matt Damon recruited some of his famous friends for a new project called Fat Camp Speaks, which aimed to bring attention to fat camp without encouraging any action or making any opinionated statement about it. Fellow A-listers such as Morgan Freeman, Julia Roberts, Salma Hayek, and George Clooney were just a few of the stars seen in a series of commercials and billboards, where they looked directly into the camera and delivered lines such as “A world without fat camps would be different than a world with even more fat camps” and “A fat camp, sometimes referred to as a weight-loss camp, is just one of the many different types of camps that a person can attend” and “Fat camp is not free: You have to pay to go to fat camp due to overhead costs such as cabin maintenance, staff wages, fresh vegetables, and sports and exercise equipment.”
5. At a press junket for The Bourne Ultimatum: The release of The Bourne Ultimatum launched Matt Damon to a greater level of international fame than ever before. During Universal’s global campaign to promote the film, Damon found a unique way to translate that super-stardom into a very low-stakes conversation about fat camp by exclusively wearing white T-shirts bearing entirely unbiased statements about fat camps, including “Fat camps exist,” “I have never attended a fat camp, but thousands of people do every year,” and “Someone had the idea for a camp filled with overweight people and then they made one.” It worked like a charm. Within a few weeks, entertainment magazines from dozens of countries around the world had done features on Matt Damon’s shirts. Some of Damon’s biggest fans even made their own version of his shirts translated into their own native languages. As soon as everyone saw Chinese theaters packed to the brim with people wearing “Most fat camps are in the woods” shirts during The Bourne Ultimatum, it became clear just how committed Damon was to maintaining complete neutrality on the topic of fat camps.