Jodie Foster accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award last night at the Golden Globes, and her speech was, well, different. The video is below.
She started off making it sound as though she was going to come out as gay, but then ended the build-up by saying, yes, she was…. “single.”
She then proceeded to lecture people who were demanding that she tell more details of her private life. Clearly she meant people who want her to talk about being gay.
It was a bit odd and uncomfortable. But she then made a point that I think has some merit:
I’m told that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance, and a primetime reality show…. I’m sorry, that’s just not me, it never was and it never will be…. But 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 would 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 three years old, that’s reality show enough don’t you think?
She then went on to mention her “co-parent” and “ex-partner in love,” Cydney Bernard, which certainly counts as coming out. Albeit somewhat tangentially. Then again, one could argue that it’s simply more graceful and classy than simply saying, “oh yeah, by the way, I’m gay.”
Here’s the thing. I think the only problem I might fault Foster for is conflating something relevant with something irrelevant. She’s understandably frustrated with the Paparazzi life she has to lead from the age of 3. But is it really the same thing, Entertainment Tonight wanting you to come out because it’s great for ratings, and the gay community wanting you to come out because it’s great for our youth’s future survival?
I think the immediately chorus of confusion and criticism I saw from my gay friends and colleagues online, in response to Foster’s speech, were justified. Scold the paparazzi who want you to come out because they’re bloodsuckers. Don’t scold your own community who has learned over the years that the best way we have of securing our civil rights, and saving gay kids who are at far too high a risk of suicide (and bullying), is by giving them role-models, and giving society yet another “she’s gay? I like her.”
I’ve had a…. what do you call a man-crush a gay guy has for a lesbian?… for Jodie Foster since I was a kid. So maybe I’m just prone to giving her a break. I do think that she was somewhat “off” tonight at the Golden Globes. Maybe someone pestered her about coming out right before the awards. Who knows. And I can respect the overwhelming desire for privacy from any movie star, especially one who has sought it since the age of 3. I just think that perhaps she could have responded, to the legitimate desire of the gay community to publicly welcome her into the fold, with something less than a scold.
Here’s more on my theory on why coming out matters, when I was writing about Nate Silver:
It matters because it matters. When gay people still are having their civil rights voted on, like some high school popularity contest, and we often lose, then it matters who in famous-land is gay because it puts another face to the “gay menace” and makes it that much less menacing.
It’s long been held that people become more supportive of our civil rights if they know someone gay. And even if (or perhaps even better if) the person is a “celebrity” who you don’t know personally, but perhaps feel even more strongly about than someone you actually know – finding out they’re gay helps to soften any internal opposition you might have.
It also doesn’t hurt, when gay kids are killing themselves because they refuse to believe that it will ever get better, for those same kids to see adult role models who are happy, successful, well-loved and admired, and yes, gay.
So yeah, until it stops mattering that we’re gay, it matters that you’re gay.
Here’s Jodie Foster last night: