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January 14, 2013

Golden Globes: Jodie Foster comes out (again) in debated speech about privacy

Posted in: LGBT,media

If you happened to be on Twitter or Facebook as Jodie Foster delivered a speech upon receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding career achievement at the Golden Globes (transcript here), you saw a variety of heated, confused and interesting reactions to her call for privacy and her “take two” of coming out of the closet. (LA Times):

“Jodie Foster, who took to the stage to give a … retirement speech? A coming-out speech? It was hard to tell. She was receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement when she ramped up to confess that she was single … and seemed to sidestep directly addressing any questions about her sexual orientation.

Her acceptance speech at the 70th annual awards was also a rant in favor of privacy that brought many people to its feet. Foster noted that she has lived virtually her entire life in the public eye yet wanted to keep some things private. “I have given everything up there from the time I was 3 years old,” she said. “That is reality enough.” (Memo to Foster: Nothing will destroy an attempt at privacy like telling the world you want to keep your life private.)”

My two cents — Ms. Foster, who has a background that would surprise no one when it comes to privacy (how many people have had to contend with a man who tried to assassinate the President of the United States over an obsession with them), really came out back in 2007 (for those willing to read between some pretty obvious lines), thanking her now-ex partner, “my beautiful Cydney” (film producer partner Cydney Bernard) with whom she co-parents her kids. Apparently, given how her coming out at the Golden Globes is being reported, it was as if the 2007 coming out edition was a dog whistle that only trained gaydar ears heard.

Most of the brouhaha this time seems to be about how, when and to what degree Jodie Foster outs herself. The whole thing seems so retro. How many times does one have to come out publicly before you are actually out? I’m not sure why Ms. Foster needed a redux — unless the rest of her message was the real impetus – more about privacy, or her “retirement” of sorts (it sounds like the retirement portion is pretty fuzzy though). That’s fair enough.

To come out multiple times using multiple signals is more tortuous than simply being clear in the first place, but that’s her comfort level with disclosure. It does offer a mixed message — jettisoning “privacy” in one arena of life in favor of more prying questions about what is meant, while also announcing a need for privacy. It’s interesting because Ms. Foster’s  speech feels strained in 2013 — in the rear view mirror is a slew of public figures who have come out with more confidence and fairly matter-of-factly. Today’s coming out short-circuits the media prying and whispering/blind items — you know, the old school way it used to occur, the death obya thousand cuts of the closet, with the fear of threatening a career. It’s probably why Foster’s speech is being so dissected now.

The sad irony is that we live in a time where reality TV, the Kardashians, gossip sites, etc. are examples of a celebrity culture where actual and proto-celebrities go out of their way to be very public about their lives, and court/leverage the media when it suits them. It’s hard to have it both ways when over-exposure has become the norm.

A message about privacy is worthy and warranted when it comes to both sides of celebrity culture, given how over-the-top the gossip industry has become (a photographer recently died trying to get a photo of a car that he thought Justin Bieber MIGHT have been in). There are endless opportunities to see celebrities whoring themselves on shows to get face time, and a public with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for the most uninteresting pathetic personal news about stars and aspiring celebrities. It’s too bad this possible take on Foster’s speech will probably be lost on many (if that was, of course, her intent).

My question is whether, even with so many public figures coming out, the media will really stop reporting with the closet in mind — the double standard that results in reporters inquiring on all sorts of levels about personal lives and relationships of hetero celebs, but studiously avoid asking socially out, but professionally questionably closeted people about the mundane same aspects of their lives. Hollywood still seems to be a place very conflicted about its public and private image when it comes to disclosing sexual orientation — that projects and career successes are tied to the illusion of straightness as something that must be maintained, or that something is “too gay” to be commercial or credible (see ‘Behind The Candelabra,’ Liberace Movie With Michael Douglas And Matt Damon, Deemed ‘Too Gay’ By Studios).

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