Monday, January 14, 2013
Leave Jodie Foster Alone
It's this belief that whispers in my ear when I hear a few gay voices calling out various celebrities for failing to "come out," and live as openly gay. True freedom is to live without having to bend to the expectations of anyone else, be it the (speaking in generalities, here) religious right, or the gay community. If the goal is true freedom, my personal feeling is that no one should be telling anyone how to live their private lives (assuming they're not harming anyone else).
The latest, of course, is Jodie Foster, who, in a deeply, honest, emotional, and moving speech accepting the Cecil B DeMille award at last night's Golden Globes, kinda came out as a lesbian, and kinda didn't. She also kinda retired, and kinda didn't. That aside, what she did do was assert the fact that her life was hers to live, hers, her family's, her friends', not yours and not mine.
I read some of these responses, and Deb Baer's on The Huffington Post really set me off, and I just get angry. I get angry for Jodie Foster, who probably couldn't give two shits what Deb Baer thinks, making her a better person than me. It makes me so mad that I put aside my general desire to stay out of these conversations, being a straight, white male, and I feel like I have to say something. I have to because this really isn't about being gay or straight, but about being a Goddamn human being, not an asset to be used in forwarding a social agenda
Jodie Foster is an entertainer, and she has been for 47 years, since she was three years old. Her job, be it in front, or behind the camera, was to tell stories. To portray characters with sensitivity and honesty, and help other actors to the same. That is what she owes the public, good work in good films, and, for the most part, that is what she has provided.
That's never enough is it? Where Foster is absolutely correct is in her invoking of reality TV, and tying it to our preoccupation with owning our celebrities. The American public is convinced that, once you attain some level of fame and fortune, they OWN you. Now, the stars of reality TV are more than happy to let the public own them, because they are, in general, talent-free douchebags. Thing is, we've come to expect that every celebrity should be crawling to us, hat in hand, begging for our continued patronage. Scared to death that we may move on to the next flavor of the month.
Jodie Foster is not talent-free, by any reach of the imagination, she got to where she is by hard work and commitment. Therefore, she is not obliged to dance for you like a wind-up toy, in order to hold on to her fame and fortune. I would guess she'd be happy as a clam to let that fame and fortune go away, rather than let you feel you own her. Lest any of us forget, at nineteen years old she found out first-hand what can happen when you fans feel they own you, by being dragged into the middle of an attempted Presidential assassination.
In short, Foster, or any other celebrity, doesn't need to come out in a big, public way unless they, personally, feel that's appropriate. What you or I think about it is utterly, utterly irrelevant. Plus...and here's the real kicker in this particular case...Jodie Foster is, and apparently has been, as "out" as any of my friends. As she said in her speech:
"I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago back in the Stone Age, in those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family and co-workers and then gradually, proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met."
So, her family knew, her friends knew, people she met know, but, according to some folks, there's something cowardly about the fact that she didn't put out a press release. Which, honestly, I find a rather crass and exploitative attitude. It would've served a political purpose, so that means she's obligated to do it?
So, the shots ring out. On top of everything else, Mel Gibson is one of her closest friends! How dare she stand by the friendship of someone she actually knows and cares about? It couldn't possibly be because there's more to Mr. Gibson than what TMZ, for example, reports on? Maybe? We simply don't know, because, if we're honest, we don't know him, we only think we do. Jodie Foster, however, does know him, so I trust her judgement as to his position in her circle of friends.
It just makes me sad that I see so many people who, when discussing a celebrity, don't see a person. They see a thing. They see someone who doesn't REALLY deserve what they have, so screw them. Or, they see a pawn they can use in furthering their own agenda. The growing belief that, somehow, fame and fortune means you no longer have the right to say "no," or even "no comment." That, somehow, entertaining us doesn't stop until we can know all your secrets.
I'll leave Ms. Foster the last word:
"...If you had been a public figure from the time that you were a toddler, if you’d had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else. Privacy. Some day, in the future, people will look back and remember how beautiful it once was.
I have given everything up there from the time that I was 3 years old. That’s reality-show enough, don’t you think?"