Why We Should Be Talking About Jodie Foster’s Coming Out

I’ve thought a lot about Jodie Foster in the hours following her rambling, confusing speech at last night’s Golden Globes. Should I be proud of her honesty, her coming-out-without-coming-out statement that made more of a comment about the nature of our celebrity-obsessed society than it did her own sexuality and its relative unimportance in the context of her career and work? Or should I find her suggestion that, as a professional woman in a certain spotlight—one who is also the member of another minority that is repressed on an international scale as well as within her own industry—she has no intention of letting her personal life intervene with her public life, neither in her art nor in the wide opportunities for mentorship and philanthropy. Should I care about Jodie Foster at all?

That is the nature of award shows, particularly the type that hand out lifetime achievement awards to 50-year-olds. We should applaud Foster on her long career (always having such film classics as Little Man Tate and The Beaver in the front of our minds), but, at the same time, keep her personal life off-limits. Luckily for me, I’ve never cared much about her personal life. I don’t care who she has slept with, who she has had relationships with. I don’t particularly care about her two sons, who Foster brought to last night’s ceremony and proceeded to point out multiple times in a speech shaming anyone who has ever showed an ounce of interest in what goes on within the walls of her home. I agree with Foster when she admitted she had no interest in living her life like a reality TV show; that show does sound pretty boring. But like Honey Boo Boo, the titular reality star Foster called out with derision, Foster entered her profession at a young, vulnerable age. Like Honey Boo Boo’s Alana Thompson very well might, Foster chose to stay in a career that put her in the attention of a large number of people.

But unlike Honey Boo Boo, Jodie Foster is a respected actress and director. She’s a two-time Academy Award winner. She’s directed three feature films, doing so despite working in an industry (and, hell, a society) that frowns upon women climbing up ladders to take on leadership roles. And she’s a lesbian, which has been an open secret in Hollywood for decades, enough for it to permeate into the consciousness of the people on whom Foster and her colleagues rely to keep their industry going: the audience. Her speech last night, in which she smugly suggested that the things that set her apart from her professional colleagues (the vast majority of whom are heterosexual men) had no bearing on her talents and abilities, was all teeth and spit and less of the deep-rooted passion I would assume someone who has spent almost their entire life in a career that places an importance on emotion rather than practicality.

It’s a shame that Jodie Foster, instead of realizing how easy she’s had it and instead of using her place behind a microphone to accept the position as role model she has so frequently refused to accept, only used her time to speak in front of an international audience about her desire for privacy.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not slamming Jodie Foster for her choices to remain under the radar, for her supposedly frequent temptation to retire. And, to be fair, Jodie Foster came of age during a time when the entertainment industry was more reticent toward LGBT performers. Yes, it is quite silly that celebrities must come out of a professional closet after having already revealed themselves to family and friends—the people that matter the most. But wouldn’t it be nice if Foster, rather than talk about the luxuries in her life, seemingly without self-awareness, and the indignation she feels toward the industry to which she chose to devote her adult life, instead lent her voice to those who don’t often get microphones handed to them, who don’t have the luck to grow up with peers who make up a liberal, open-minded world?

But if Jodie Foster wants to keep that part of her life separate, to gracefully step away from movie-making and, likewise, living any part of her life in front of cameras, that is her decision to make. But she shouldn’t belittle the importance of her sexuality as something that defines her, that sets her apart from the majority as much as her gender does. Rather than defensively hide a basic foundation of her being, perhaps Foster could use it not to her advantage but to the advantage of all of the other fragile young girls like her today. 

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