Friday I blasted Meghan Markle for showing up in tragedy-stricken Uvalde, Texas, in what seemed like little more than a publicity stunt. I think we all know by now the horrors that unfolded there Tuesday, so I’m not going to recount them, but suffice it to say I can think of no reason why the Duchess of Sussex was wanted or needed in the grieving town.
Enter Hollywood star and Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey, who on Friday arrived in Uvalde and appeared with Texas Republican Representative Tony Gonzales at the Uvalde Civic Center. He declined to take questions after the appearance.
Thank you Matthew for helping to heal our community. Your visit brought so many smiling faces to Uvalde. See you soon my friend.https://t.co/2BThrzx3hp
— Tony Gonzales (@TonyGonzales4TX) May 28, 2022
Does he deserve criticism the same criticism as Markle? In a word, NO. McConaughey was born in Uvalde, spent the first 12 years of his life there, and his mother taught at a school one mile from Robb Elementary School, where the tragedy took place. This is not just some celebrity call for attention — he belongs there, whereas Meghan Markle did not. In fact, it would have been more notable if he did not come to help console his hometown.
McConaughey also did something Tuesday that is rare for today’s Hollywood celebrities: He issued a moving statement that didn’t simply list Chuck Schumer’s talking points or blast Republicans for wanting children to die. Instead, his response was measured and even, and while some may not like it, is infinitely better than some of the hateful venom being spewed out by other Hollywood stars and Democrat politicians.
Uvalde, Texas, USA. pic.twitter.com/0iULRGtREm
— Matthew McConaughey (@McConaughey) May 25, 2022
Put this in contrast to some of the vitriol we’ve seen out there:
— Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) May 24, 2022
Some of you won’t like McConaughey’s statement and will say it’s a silent whistle for gun control and the confiscation of our arms. But to be fair, he didn’t say that. If and when he does, we can have that conversation, but for now, he’s one of the few prominent voices of reason weighing in.
Also, think about what he’s risking. I live in Los Angeles, I know the culture, and I know what goes on in Hollywood. Trust me: People are taking notes. The fact that he didn’t immediately start screeching about Republican child killers and white supremacy and Trumpian evils will not go over well among many in the studio set. He is probably a big enough star at this point that he won’t pay too heavy a price, but if he wasn’t… he’d never see the big screen again.
It wasn’t that long ago that McConaughey was rumored to be running for Texas governor, although he eventually opted not to:
“As a simple kid born in the little town of Uvalde, Texas,” he said in November, 2021, “it never occurred to me that I would one day be considered for political leadership. It’s a humbling and inspiring path to ponder. It is also a path that I am choosing not to take at this moment.”
The fact that a modern Hollywood celebrity could even consider running in Texas is refreshing.
To be honest, I have not followed McConaughey’s career that closely, nor have I seen that many of his movies. In the ones I have watched, I’ve always found him to be an above-average actor and a legit star. (Although I’ve truly always despised those pretentious Lincoln commercials. If you’re in the mood for a laugh during all this tragedy, check out Jim Carrey’s spoof of them.)
It turns out that McConaughey’s more interesting than your average celeb. He’s written a book called “Greenlights” which has “inspired millions of readers through his unflinching honesty, unconventional wisdom, and lessons learned the hard way about living with greater satisfaction.” Normally I would flat-out reject such hyperbolic flattery, but my own son told me the book changed his life and “inspired him to look at things in a different way.” Gotta listen to your kids, right?
I am not some McConaughey fanboy, and I’m sure he’s not perfect. But as the biggest name to ever come out of Uvalde, Texas, he has an important voice in this conversation, unlike Meghan Markle. So far, he has used it well.