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Jan 16, 2013

And the award for Most Insanely Hypocritical Speech goes to...Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster collected a lifetime achievement award at this week's Golden Globes. She also gave a preposterously hypocritical plea for privacy.

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Jodie Foster

Over the years Jodie Foster has recited more lines to more audiences than most people would have in ten lifetimes. But on Monday, accepting the Cecil B DeMille Award at the 70th Golden Globes ceremony, she read from her own script.

The 50-year-old actor-cum-filmmaker wasn’t, for the record, accepting an award of high distinction from her peers. The mob behind the Golden Globes — famously described by writer Sharon Waxman as the film industry’s “dirty little secret” — is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a mysterious clique of low-rent “journalists” required to publish just four entertainment-related stories a year to qualify for membership.

Foster’s speech was a disjointed smattering of thank yous, personal reflections and anecdotes, about as close to waffling as a planned-to-the-minute ceremony can get (Clint Eastwood and the 2012 GOP convention notwithstanding).

“I hope you’re not disappointed that there won’t be a big coming-out speech tonight because I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago,” the Silence of the Lambs star said, making it clear she wasn’t going to talk about life as a lesbian. Foster came out at a Hollywood Reporter breakfast in 2007.

Nevertheless, plenty of news outlets around the world ran stories suggesting this was Foster’s “confessional”, to apply a fairly crass word (her choice) to a meaningful part of a gay person’s life. She talked in code, never saying “gay” or “lesbian.”

Foster, a two-time Oscar winner who has been acting since she was three-years-old, is many things. A champion of gay rights isn’t one of them.

Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein, a long time gay rights advocate, wrote:

“Trying desperately to be fair to JODI FOSTER, but what she did last night by standing in front of millions of people and being too ashamed to say the word lesbian or gay sent the message that being gay is something of which to be ashamed.”

Foster, of course, is under no obligation to discuss her sex life with anybody. It may disappoint some that she hasn’t used her clout to influence public opinion, but on matters this personal it is probably best not to rush to judgement.

Where the re-minted star’s speech got crazy weird, and insanely hypocritical, wasn’t the bit when she thanked Mel “you look like a fucking pig in heat” Gibson, hardly a shining beacon on the subject of political correctness, women’s issues or anything vaguely resembling a moral compass.

It was when Foster detoured into a discussion about privacy:

“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.”

Let’s take a moment to recap. Jodie Foster, looking a million bucks in a gleaming navy cleavage-exhibiting dress, jubilantly speaks at one of Hollywood’s biggest nights — in front of cameras beamed into 19.7 million homes in America alone — about the importance of being able to keep a low profile.

Like her last film The Beaver, in which Gibson spent the lion’s share of the running time with his arm up a puppet rodent, talking with a Cockney accent sledged by The Telegraph as one of the worst in film history, Foster wasn’t taking the piss.

That an intelligent person is apparently incapable of grasping such breathtaking hypocrisy is, perhaps, a sad indication of what a life spent in the spotlight can do to your critical facilities. It’s also a classic example of diss-the-cake-and-gobble-it-too celebrity.

Foster has been around the tracks long enough to know her speech would spawn international headlines and raise her already considerable profile. To use the opportunity to stand on a soapbox and extoll her belief in “privacy above all else” reflects astonishing gall.

But it got worse. As her bizzarre dispatch wrapped up, the gong-collecting privacy proponent said:

“Jodie Foster was here, I still am, and I want to be seen.”

You read that right: I want to be seen.

If journalists and paparazzi decide to ignore Foster’s plea for privacy — and history, of course, suggests they will — it might not be because they’re soulless scum-sucking hacks who peep through the blinds and flog unflattering photographs to the tabloids. They may be trying to make at least one of her wishes come true.

Luke Buckmaster —

Luke Buckmaster

Writer, Critic and The Daily Review Journalist

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6 thoughts on “And the award for Most Insanely Hypocritical Speech goes to…Jodie Foster

  1. Stephen Rowley

    Sorry, Luke, I don’t buy this at all.

    Firstly, she didn’t talk in code at all. She happened not to use the words “gay” or “lesbian,” but this is not code by any stretch of the imagination:

    …I hope you’re not disappointed that there won’t be a big coming-out speech tonight because 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.

    You rightly back off the angle that she had some obligation to further gay causes by outing herself. We should all admire those who want to take on the burden of fighting that fight, but she’s under no obligation to. You also rightly acknowledge that this is a private part of her life that she’s under no obligation to make public (and she’s clearly long been out to all who know her).

    But then, having acknowledged that right – a right to privacy! – you attack her for the alleged hypocrisy of… asserting her right to privacy?

    I don’t accept that she’s a hypocrite for being an actor but also having the temerity to assert that part of her life is not the business of the movie-going public. (Which, incidentally, is not the same thing at all as your straw-woman argument that she is asserting the “importance of being able to keep a low profile.”) Of course a high profile actor values the private things in their life. What’s hypocritical or odd about that?

    It’s often argued – and you seem to allude to this without quite saying it – that actors make a knowing choice to accept a loss of privacy as the price of fame. Jodie Foster is a particularly poor example to choose if one wants to make such a case, since she was famous so young; one can assume she was probably barely starting to come to terms with her sexuality by the time she hit the public eye. Once in it there was no unscrambling that egg, and she pursued the best roles she could as they came to her. Good on her.

    As to the “I want to be seen” quote… well here’s the full context:

    I will continue to tell stories, to move people by being moved, the greatest job in the world. It’s just that from now on, I may be holding a different talking stick. And maybe it won’t be as sparkly, maybe it won’t open on 3,000 screens, maybe it will be so quiet and delicate that only dogs can hear it whistle. But it will be my writing on the wall. Jodie Foster was here, I still am, and I want to be seen, to be understood deeply and to be not so very lonely.

    Now that’s a little garbled and I won’t defend it as a great bit of oratory, but the last words in particular completely recast the meaning of “I want to be seen.” It is a plea for empathy and acceptance, not fame. I think a little of both would have improved this piece.

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