I caught Jodie Foster’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille at the Golden Globes, and thought it was magnificent. It wasn’t perfect, but it was grandly eloquent, a bit righteous, and a lot truthful. It was a cri de cœur, wanting naught so much as to be understood.
In the following hours, a lot of the reaction has been confused, snarky, and mean. It has almost all entirely missed the point.
I replied to a comment on Facebook about it saying this:
“I think that’s missing the point of what she said and was doing. What she was angry about was the fact that any privacy at all that she’s had in her life–and remember, she’s been a working actor since she was three years old, well before she could have meaningfully consented, and was raised so entrenched in show business that it’s not like anything else was later really an option–was something that she had to stake out and claim and defend as viciously as possible all in order to keep herself as whole as possible. She mourned that even what privacy remains isn’t going to last, and that that is more than a bit fucked up. She reminded the audience that she, and all actors and celebrities don’t actually owe the audience anything except as good a performance as they can deliver. Her entire point was that her personal life is that: hers.
“What–and if–she shares of her personal life is up to her, and although sure, we can make the political argument that her public reticence is damaging or shameful or cowardly, it ignores the fact we cannot, in fact, demand that anyone be a hero for us. That’s not how it works. If she chooses–and that’s entirely her choice–to come out publicly, let’s recognize that it’s not exactly the same thing as when Jane Q. Lesbian from Schenectady does it. Therein lies its power and its weight, and again: it’s up to her to choose it or not.
“And besides the point, she’s lived her life honestly with everyone in it who actually matters to her, her family and her friends. She doesn’t owe the rest of us that. That she’s given it, that’s something to be honored. And yeah, it would have helped had she done it sooner, but still: she doesn’t owe us that.”
Ms. Foster used humor to address the issue, but I found her ire to be perfectly clear, too–and perfectly reasonable. As much as queer folks want–need–people to come out of the closet and be the best heroes they can be, we can’t actually demand that they do so. In a world where that’s a fraught choice for a private individual, and all the more so for one in the public eye, it is an incredibly important act to come out. To not do so is, in my opinion, in many ways morally questionable, but I can’t tell decide the worth of anyone else’s honor or conscience. I cannot demand that they be a hero. We can ask, we can plead, and in certain instances (as in self-defense against closeted politicians who work against equality) we can even force them to be honest–although not a hero. The onus of truth is individual.
That Jodie Foster speaks this part of her truth now–and let’s not be pedantic and stupidly coy and say that she’s not done so because she didn’t actually say, “Yep, I’m gay,” when she clearly identified her co-parent and former partner-in-love by name and gender–is something I, for one, am glad about. It’s a lovely gift.
Thanks, Ms. Foster. And thank you especially for speaking about how love, for your colleagues, your friends, your family, especially your sons, your former partner, and your mother, is your personal truth in the search to understand and be understood.