Sunday night I spent some time watching The Golden Globe awards. I'm not really star struck, I just like to see what everyone is wearing. I know that sounds suspiciously like the old excuse men used to give for having a Playboy magazine in the house. ("I only read the articles, honey!" Right.) Anyway, I wasn't giving the show my entire attention. The other half of my brain was surfing the internet, looking at bracelets on Etsy. (What can I say? It was Sunday night, it was late, I felt like doing something mindless.)
When I realized that Jodi Foster was getting some sort of lifetime achievement award, I started paying closer attention. Jodi Foster is younger than I am. Why were they giving her a lifetime achievement award? I wondered. Did she have some terminal illness I hadn't heard about?
No, it seems the Cecil B. DeMille award is a prize that recognizes "outstanding contributions in entertainment." So not really a "lifetime" achievement, even though she is the second youngest person every to receive the award. Judy Garland was the youngest, receiving it in 1962 at age 39.
I digress. The award isn't the interesting thing here.
Her acceptance speech was the real stunner. Af first it seemed like some rambling stream of consciousness diatribe. But then it took a different tack, although her tone continued in the same satirical and humorous vein. "I guess I have a sudden urge to say something that I’ve never really been able to air in public," she said. "So, a declaration that I’m a little nervous about...but I’m just going to put it out there, right? Loud and proud, right? So I’m going to need your support on this. I am single."
Of course that wasn't the important declaration at all - Foster was talking about the fact that she is gay. She went on to say she "did her real coming out about a thousand years ago, back in the Stone Age, when a very young girl opened up to trusted friends and family and co-workers and, gradually, proudly, to everyone who knew her and everyone she met. She poked fun at the current trend of celebrity confessionals, but then stated something quite thought provoking. "Seriously, 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.”
I have to make a confession of my own. I didn't even GET it until the next day, when I read about it on the internet. While I was watching the speech, my attention must have strayed for a moment (those dang bracelets on Etsy). I missed the "loud and proud" reference, missed the reference to her "real coming-out about a thousand years ago."
Now she's become the center of a little whirlwind, is being both praised and vilified by Gay Rights activists and the general public. Praised for at last verifying what inquiring minds apparently have wanted to know for the past 20 years, vilified for not being more forceful about her declaration, for not be "loud and proud enough" to come out and say the words "I am a lesbian," but only to dance around it with rhetorical humor.
It doesn't matter to me what Foster's sexual orientation is, which is probably why I missed the reference in the first place. I admire her acting, her directing, the classy way she has conducted her long life in show business, but I've never given her private life much consideration because she herself has never made an issue of it (unlike many celebrities whose lives become part of their "brand.")
But I'm wondering (because I'm always all about why people do what they do) if she does indeed "value privacy above all else," why did she feel the need to make that public declaration now, after a lifetime of maintaining at least of modicum of privacy about her personal life. What compulsion led her to jump on the Honey Boo Boo bandwagon and put it all out there in this particular forum?
Because it seems to me she has defeated the decades of privacy she evidently worked so hard to establish.
Perhaps she was simply thumbing her nose at the public or the entire celebrity culture. Or perhaps, as she told her two sons who were in the audience, "this, this whole song, was all about them," about demonstrating honesty and forthrightness and being proud of who you are.
About being able to tell your story.
I believe so much in the power of stories. They connect us, they equalize us, they inspire us, they provoke us. Telling your story to one person or one million people is a gift to you and to the listener.
But I also believe the way we tell those stories is important, that it should be in kind with type of life you've lived, the type of reaction you want to inspire, and the reason you're telling it in the first place.
And I wish Foster had chosen a different way to tell hers.