The Queerest Question
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
After I wrote my column last week about the paradoxes of stardom in Canada I had an interesting lesson on the subject of stardom after the Golden Globes.
Jodie Foster gave an acceptance speech for her lifetime achievement award. (Take a moment and look at it here.) I found the speech profoundly moving and particularly liked its intertwined threads of coming out and the need for privacy. Within seconds there was reaction (mostly negative) on Twitter and within an hour columnists were writing about it. I think it took me a little longer to process and what follows is partly shaped by the negative things which were said about Foster.
Firstly - the speech itself. Foster is a brilliant young woman. She was educated in French, thank you!, and then at Yale. She has been producing for nearly as long as she has been acting so the idea that she rambled is ludicrous. The speech was as structured as many good ones in many good plays. (Here's a delicious Guardian article that makes that point) I think the reaction to the structure of the speech is either sexist or another case of, "The stupid fucking actors..."
Then there is the question of her cowardly waiting so fucking long to come out - the bitch! Jodie Foster is 50. She is still at the height of her powers. She's not another in a long line of hasbeens who waited until it was over to come out. What's even worse is that since she was in her 30s her sexuality has not really been a secret - she had two children co-parented by a woman and pictures exist of her with her partner and boys as far back as when their kids were prepubescent. (Google 'em!)
Please note I have not given her (ex)partner's and children's names which brings us to the privacy thing. Since when is anyone's private life our business? Apparently it's since Queers decided that every Queer has to lead the army in the cause of coming out. You will always find me on the other side of this argument in two respects: the personal paths of people in the process of coming out and an actor's coming out. An actor's career in the theatre is a fragile thing and based so much on image it's frightening. I am not talking about character or comic actors (like my beloved Sean Hayes, Jane Lynch or Jim Parsons), I am talking the ingenues and juvenile leads and, in film, the action stars. That we think - in an often hateful world - actors have a choice about coming out loud then we are truly kidding ourselves. Even I, when Sean Hayes played the romantic lead in Promises, Promises on Broadway, looked askance. As I have said, the first job of any actor is, first, to make the audience forget the strong impressions made in the past. That's a bitch of a job if the impressions are your sex-life laid out in the papers or a terrific performance.
Yes, actors come out and we must thank them for it WHENEVER they do because they have completed a difficult journey more difficult than ours (ie: mine). They not only had family to deal with, and friends (where every coming out can be a stomach churning moment that can go awfully bad) but they also have investors: agents, managers, accountants, studios - all of them insisting there is a solid fiscal reason for staying closeted.
Now let's go back to Ms Foster for the finale. Playing, this week, in Winnipeg is a Stephen Sondheim musical called Assassins. In this dark, troubling work about murderers of presidents is a song called "Unworthy of Your Love" otherwise known as "Jodie, Jodie". Many of those baying for Ms Foster's blood forget this little fact that song harks back to: a crazyman named John Hinckley once made a near-successful attempt to murder Ronald Reagan as an act of unrequited love for Jodie Foster. She was 19 at the time (and had been in the public eye already for 13 years). After the murder attempt the press hounded her, the paparazzi went mental and - though her career continued to flourish - she fled celebrity.
So, again: Since when is anyone's private life our business?