There has been a lot of comment these past few days over Jodie Foster's non-coming-out speech at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards. Some people felt that she doesn't owe anybody anything and is entitled to her privacy. Others said that she shouldn't have said anything at all. Yet many others feel, as I do, that Jodie missed the mark: that she could have made a significant statement but chose not to.
I was a teenager when Jodie Foster first appeared on shows such as "The Life of Eddie's Father." She played a little tomboy, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans. She was blonde and scrappy. She stood up for herself in a world of boys and men. As she grew up, it seemed that no matter what role she played, she had guts and didn't take crap from anyone. I thought that was really cool. I wasn't very surprised when she "came out" in 2007. She always seemed like she knew who she was and again, didn't take crap from anyone.
So as I sat watching her the other night, she got to the part of the speech where she said, "So while I'm here being all confessional, I guess I have a sudden urge to say something that I've never really been able to air in public. So, a declaration that I'm a little nervous about but maybe not quite as nervous as my publicist right now, huh Jennifer? But I'm just going to put it out there, right? Loud and proud, right? So I'm going to need your support on this."
Well, I held my breath and hoped. I just knew she was going to say something important. I knew she had come out, but I thought maybe she'll take a stand for equality, make some sort of statement. So when she began her remarks about being single, I was so taken aback! I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
Now, I know many people have said that Jodie deserves her privacy. That Jodie doesn't owe anybody anything. However, I look at this in another way. First, I think she knew that the way she segued into the statement of "being single" was a big tease. It reminded me of what young girls have been said to do when they lead young boys on. She must have known that thousands of people would believe they were going to hear something critical - something that might make a difference. Instead, they saw a twinkle in her eye as she made her huge non-statement. Jodie was leading us on. She knew what she was doing as she made her flippant remarks. She knew that there was something that we all wanted her to say, and she was, in effect, giving us the finger. I find this disrespectful at least, and terribly mean at most.
It has taken me a while to figure out why I was really so angry. But after reading other people's blog posts and Facebook comments, I figured it out. If Jodie had made a statement about equality, she would have nothing to lose. She is a huge star. She has millions of dollars. She can take care of herself and her family with no problems. But what about those LGBT people, their parents, and straight allies who are in the trenches fighting every day for equality? Those LGBT kids who are bullied and beat up and thrown out of their homes for being gay? Those LGBT kids and adults who commit suicide? What about those LGBT adults who get fired from jobs and can't get decent healthcare? Those LGBT parents who struggle to make a home for their children in spite of the fact that they cannot be legally married? What about the parents of LGBT kids who lose friends and whose families are split apart because other family members don't accept their children? Those parents who are afraid to come out at work or at their place of worship because they fear the bigotry of their bosses, co-workers, and religious leaders? In spite of all of these obstacles, thousands of these people are out; they wave the rainbow flag in Pride parades. They write to their legislators in favor of bills to protect their LGBT loved ones, and fight the bills that might damage them. They write letters and give speeches.They all tell their stories. These are the people who have the most to lose.
So yes, Jodie can say she's out, but I think she's really in the closet. She blew her big opportunity to make a statement to millions of viewers that she cares about equality. That she has been there and she understands the fear that LGBT kids experience. That she knows how difficult it is to keep a family together but hey, I did it and so can you.