Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On Jodie Foster

Someone I know only through facebook posted this on her page Sunday afternoon: 

"This morning I'm thinking about sincerity—how deeply seductive it is. This is particularly true in a time in which so many of our social exchanges are constrained by irony and detachment."

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this thought since then, and it's been especially loud in my mind since seeing all of the negative reaction to Jodie Foster's Golden Globes speech.  I called my friend Kathleen, whose opinion I value, and she insisted that I write about my feelings on the speech.  So here goes.

I'm downright pissed at the negative response the speech has received.  Granted, I've been a pretty big fan of Jodie's for a long time, but my anger doesn't come from me being fan.  It comes from me being compassionate.  A lot of people labeled this as Jodie's coming out speech.  Truthfully, she mentioned her partner by name in a speech at an awards luncheon in 2007, so really, among the gay community, she was out.  But unless you're gay or live in Los Angeles, you may not have heard that, so to you, this might have been her coming out speech.

People are calling her a coward, a hypocrite, a lunatic.  Her speech was rambling, people say.  Was she drunk? people are asking.  On meth?  (Because meth is hilariously fun to joke about.)  What was with her?  And what's the big deal, coming out on that stage in 2013 when being gay isn't a big deal and she should've come out a long time ago when everybody else did!  And there's the other storyline of the speech, where people are saying she's a hypocrite because she talks about valuing her privacy.  And still, there are those that talk about how that stage wasn't the time or the place to say the things she did. And on and on and on.

The piece that really got me going is this one  on Huffington Post by Deb Baer.  I feel like she's expressing a lot of what other people are saying.  "Why am I so angry? Because I'm roughly the same age as Jodie, and yet I had the courage to come out exactly 20 years ago."  OH, right.  Your life is just like hers.  You guys are the same age, so you should have the same level of courage.  Because you are the same age, you have the same life experiences and insecurities.  You deal with them exactly the same way.  You both have the American public at large interested in your private life.  

Oh wait.

You guys - everybody is different.  People come out when they are READY to come out and not a moment before.  It's not like Jodie Foster was parading around married to a man.  And even if she had been, it's no one's business BUT HERS.  Everyone is fighting their own battle.  Yes, we should all be out and proud to show America's youth that it's okay to be gay.  But we're not all there at the same time.  We don't all arrive at that place just because you think we should.  A lot of gay people don't want to "come out."  They want to just BE.  They don't want to hide who they are, but they just don't want to have to have that conversation with anyone.  Can you imagine having to have it with the whole world?  This reluctance to have that conversation oftentimes doesn't have anything to do with the fact that we are ashamed of being gay.  It's just a dumb thing to have to tell people out of context.  And for me, I don't want that to be the first thing I'm identified as.  I'm way more than that, as is every gay person everywhere.  

And then there's whole issue with her talking about how she values her privacy.  She is a successful Hollywood figure - there WILL be interest in her private life.  I'm pretty sure she wasn't saying there shouldn't be interest.  All she was saying was that she's not interested in sharing it.  "Well, she's famous, we pay money to see her movies, and she makes a lot of money, so she has to be willing to lose her privacy."  Well, no.  She has been acting since she was 3 years old.  She became famous in the '70s, before Perez Hilton, before TMZ, before Honey Boo Boo.  Do you think she had any idea what she was getting herself into?  Do you think she had any notion what fame would become?  She clearly HATES all of that.  She's allowed.  And you know what?  If you have a problem with that, don't go see her films.  Sure, she could quit acting, she could leave Hollywood... but if it's just this one thing that she hates about her career, why would she walk away from it if there is so much she loves?  Plenty of people love their job, but still complain about it.

And finally, there are the people that are saying she was incoherent, rambling, and her speech started off with an un-funny SNL joke.  I see her as someone who has taken herself so seriously her whole life, has had to do that, and someone who is maybe uptight, but someone who is older now and wants to let loose, wants to be goofy because she's at a point in her career where she can be.  Clearly, she's not great at comedy.  Can't we just look at her at someone who is maybe terrified of being this personal with millions of people, this goofy, but she's doing it anyway?  Why do we need to ridicule that?

After the response this speech has received, can you blame her for waiting this long to publicly address the gay thing?  And Deb Baer thinks she should've come out sooner so she could've saved some kids' lives.  But Deb Baer isn't really helping matters by ridiculing her for coming out "too late."  What are we teaching the kids we say we are trying to help?  That sincerity is for suckers.  That unless you are courageous at the right time, we will mock the hell out of you for telling the truth.  

Can't we just be kind to one another?  Can't we just support this woman who just did something that was difficult for her, even if we think she's silly to be that afraid of it?  Can't we just celebrate that she finally feels okay to talk about this, that she's finally comfortable enough with herself and her life to share it a little bit?  What becomes clearer to me every day that passes in my life is that above everything else, we just need to take care of one another.  

I'm starting to think maybe I should just quit the internet.

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