Jodie Foster’s Speech at the Golden Globes
Although I’ve always been aware of Jodie Foster’s reputation as a “serious” artist in the Hollywood context, I’ve never actually been struck by her work. Honestly, if you put Helen Hunt’s career side by side with Foster’s, I think I’d probably be more inclined to celebrate Hunt. They both strike me as middle-of-the-road Hollywood figures, people who can play the role asked of them, but rarely elevate it into something unexpected. I don’t mean this as a knock, but simply as an illustration that I find Foster comparable to a large swath of Hollywood talent who are never treated with the same reverence that Foster has enjoyed throughout her career.
As far as I can tell, Foster’s iconic status was earned for surviving childhood stardom with fewer visible scars than most. This is no small achievement, of course, but it’s not exactly an artistic one. As one friend put it, we feel protective of Foster because we will always see her as the precocious child she was in her defining role in Taxi Driver, and because of this we shelter her.
On Sunday night Foster was given a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes awards. (Helen Hunt, who received her fifth Golden Globe nomination this year was not) As many of you are probably aware, Foster’s speech was a weird, seemingly improvisational flight that had a polarizing effect on the audience at large. Those who instinctively shelter Foster or see in her a champion of intelligence and integrity loved it, while others saw it as a self-serving and deluded Hollywood indulgence. I would fall into the latter camp, I think.
Looking entirely healthy, beautiful and confident, she proceeded to congratulate herself on her appearance and then pretended to come out of the closet, all the while using a tone that diminished those who had previously come out of the closet as somehow self-interested or even vulgar. She then talked about how hard it was for her to lead a normal life, ignoring the possibility that it was hard for anybody to lead a normal life, made a self-important plea for privacy, and then seemed to enjoy flirting and teasing the audience by hinting at retiring from acting (what a national tragedy that would be!) — before publically and somewhat melodramatically, bringing attention to her mother’s dementia. And of course, she chose to do all this from the glittering pulpit of the Golden Globes.
She was a little mixed-up, I think, and far too fast to congratulate herself and dismiss the pedestrian efforts and realities of those who lived outside her bubble of privilege and popular acceptance. It was ironic, to say the very least, that she would choose this platform to champion Mel Gibson, her great friend, instead of pioneers within the LGBT civil rights movement. There was an angry piety to her words that suggested the megalomania of a person who saw herself as a kind of martyr. She seemed small, lonely and disconnected up there on stage, almost cruelly insulated, and it made me sad to see that celebrity had torn her so.