Celebrity protip

Oh, Golden Globes.  There’s something so endearing about your goofball fun.  It’s enjoyable to watch famous people schmoozing in a way that they don’t at the more prestigious awards.  The speeches tend to be looser and more irreverent.  (Someone let Anne Hathaway know she’ll want to sound less stilted when she nabs her Oscar.)  And since nobody takes them all that seriously, everyone seems to be having a better time.

Last night’s ceremony was no different.  Our DVR went wonkus at random intervals, so we missed several chunks.  And (I can’t believe this is happening to me) I actually went to bed before it was over.  (That will not be happening during the Academy Awards, I hasten to assure you now, middle-of-the-night baby feedings notwithstanding.)  But we saw a lot of it, and what we saw we mainly enjoyed.  Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were a fantastic hosting team.  Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell were hilarious when they presented the Lead Actress in a Comedy or Musical award.  (Psssst.  Psssst.  Tommy Lee Jones.  It’s called a sense of humor.  Look into it.)  And I always enjoy a chance to look at Julianna Margulies’s husband.

And then there was Jodie Foster, who received the Cecil B DeMille Award for career achievement.  I gather from my Twitter feed that there were people who found her acceptance speech powerfully honest and moving.  I… am not one of them.  “Crazeballs” would be more my take.

It was unapologetically egotistical.  It was self-serious.  It was rambling and incoherent.  As I read on Twitter, it sounded like someone had removed every other sentence of her speech.

I hated it.

The part that I hated the most is likely what its boosters liked best about the speech, which was her non-coming-out spiel about protecting her privacy.  I’ll grant that the whole “nutball with a gun shooting the President because he’s obsessed with you” thing makes Ms. Foster’s experience of celebrity uniquely horrible, and so I’m willing to cut her some slack.

Further, as I think I’ve already said before, I think being famous is awful for people.  I think it corrodes and corrupts, and no doubt the loss of privacy and the chance that a show like “Family Guy” is going to say nasty, hateful things about you make it especially unpleasant.  Frankly, being famous seems a lot like crystal meth to me.  Probably a lot of fun right at the very beginning, rapidly becoming something all-consuming and life-destroying that’s really hard to quit.

But you know what?  If you’re so jealous of your privacy, then you should quit.  Go Garbo.  If you spend your professional life going “lookit me, lookit me, lookit me!!“, then you really should understand that the people who’ve made a habit of looking at you will want to continue.  If your career is spent cultivating the public’s fascination with you, expect that fascination to persist even when it’s inconvenient.  Every job has aspects that suck.  I certainly don’t love getting awoken at 2 AM to answer questions about how to dose Tylenol that could be answered by looking on the box.  But I make a good living in a well-respected field and work at a practice that I love, so them’s the brakes.  Considering that the perks of being famous include wearing fabulous clothes and jewels and getting into all the most exclusive, glamorous places whilst being paid obscene amounts of money to entertain people… well, if you don’t like seeing yourself on the cover of “US Weekly” (and who can blame you?), then go back to a life of obscurity.  Send the Marchesa back to the studio, decline any more interviews, and look into a job in middle management.  Ms. Foster’s gown probably cost more than a minimum-wage worker makes in half a year (or more).  It’s a hard knock life for her.

What really galled me about her speech, however, wasn’t merely its self-aggrandizement and pious indignation.  It was the sneering disdain that I (at least) perceived for those who have chosen to come out as gay or lesbian, with her barbed reference to press conferences and such.  Pardon me for finding that a little bit nauseating.

First of all, a great many gay and lesbian celebrities have come out lately with hardly any fanfare at all.  A mention in an article about a boyfriend, say.  Heck, Anderson Cooper’s (unsurprising) coming out got a certain level of attention, but his manner of sharing the information was simply to have Andrew Sullivan reveal it on his blog.  Hardly a splashy reality show.  Ms. Foster could have come out in a similarly quiet manner.

But more than her straw man argument was her eliding the cost of silence.  Blessedly, being gay or lesbian now is much less stigmatized than it used to be, and we’ve made enormous strides in a relatively short span of American history.  That’s because people have come out, beloved celebrities included.  Ellen DeGeneres will always be one of my heroes for so courageously, gracefully coming out when few stars of her standing were doing so.  It made a huge difference in public attitudes, and I respect her tremendously.

At the peak of her fame, Ms. Foster’s coming out would have gone a long way.  “The Silence of the Lambs” was a huge hit when I was in high school (and very much [ineffectively] in the closet]), and she was among the most acclaimed, sought-after actresses in Hollywood.  Would it have taken a lot of guts to reveal that she was a lesbian?  Of course!  Was she under some kind of moral obligation to do so?  I wouldn’t go that far.  But she has no right to denigrate people who have chosen to reveal their LGBT identity, and I found her effrontery immensely distasteful.

The whole speech was a mess, and the most embarrassing celebrity display since Clint Eastwood had a conversation with an empty chair.  That an actress of such talent can’t deliver a coherent speech in acceptance of an award from her community is surprising.  That she was so utterly ungracious and self-congratulatory was terribly disappointing.

Update:  I don’t always agree with him, but I am totally with Sully on this one.

Update II, the Revenge: Over to you, Gawker.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. I thought Jodie Foster had come out, like, twenty years ago, around the time she made that western spoof with Mel Gibson (and IIRC, Mel kinda had a problem with it but it all worked out OK).

    She may be a celebrity who has given up personal privacy in exchange for a living, but perhaps she wishes to provide a web of privacy for her sons — particularly considering her own experiences while young.

    • I think that’s a reasonable argument. However:

      1) Plenty of famous people have kids they manage to keep out of the public eye.

      2) She was under no obligation to discuss any of that last night. She could have accepted the award with grace and gratitude, talked about her luminous career and all the great people she’s worked with and films that she’s made, blah blah blah. But no, it had to be a broadside about celebrity privacy and a tip of her hat in the mirror.

  2. Tommy Lee Jones. It’s called a sense of humor. Look into it.

    We at the FBI do not have a sense of humor we’re aware of.

  3. Jody Foster’s acceptance speech was egotistical, rambling and incoherent. Rickey Henderson’s was sweet, humble, and moving. Something is seriously wrong here.

  4. As I read on Twitter, it sounded like someone had removed every other sentence of her speech.

    That sentence was “I’m with you in Rockland”

  5. WIll Ferrel is just one of those people that makes whatever script he’s given funny. How many times have my kids made me watch one of his movies that was just painfully bad, and yet somehow whenever he’s talking I find myself laughing out loud?

      • I think I’ve said this before, but I find Wiig pretty sexy.

        I would be delighted and honored to make tender, generous and mutually-satisfying love to her.

        If you know what I mean.

    • I’ve seen exactly one thing that Farrel han’t ruined with his over the top “humor” and that was as much drama as comedy (maybe more) — “Stranger Than Fiction”. Left to his own devices, “I brought you flours” [no typo] would have been painful instead of sweet.

      Added to Poehler, I’m very glad I didn’t watch this mess. (I liked the Fey of”Mean Girls” but by 30 Rock she was believing her own PR)

    • Tod has evidently not seen The Campaign.

      And actually, I am just going to disagree with him more generally. I don’t find Will Farrell to be very funny most of the time. But something about him has always rubbed me the wrong way, so I might be biased.

  6. “Every job has aspects that suck. ”

    Yes. A thousand times, yes.

    When summer rolls around and my schedule eases up (I try to remind people that teachers don’t really have summer off, as there is usually work of one kind or another they are doing; it’s just happening at a much lighter intensity and easier, more flexible pace), all my friends start lamenting how lucky I am and how much they wish they had summers off and how they wish they were teachers.

    “Awesome. We need more smart people in education. I’ll let my boss know you’re interested.”
    “Well, no. I wouldn’t ACTUALLY want to be a teacher?”
    “Why not?”
    “I just… it doesn’t… it’s not for me.”
    “Oh. Okay.”
    “But I wish I had summers off.”
    “Well, who doesn’t? I wish I got paid what you did but have accepted that I don’t and likely won’t. But I’m happy with my career. How you feelin’?”
    [Grumbling to self] “I just wish I had summers offer.”

  7. FTR I have never seen the Jodie-Foster-as-Marlene-Deitrich photograph before. How flippin’ perfect is that*?

    * Other than that whole last eleven years of life spent in lonely alcoholic depression part. Ill-advised speech aside, I hope Ms. Foster’s golden years are better than that.

      • Wow, she looks (looked then) like Jodie Foster (does now). But it explains the Golden Age pose, clothes, makeup, etc. that we’d have seen Ms. Dietrich and countless other gorgeous women from that era.

  8. There are those who’ve managed a “look-at-me” job with a fair amount of privacy — Newman and Woodward come to mind.

    For that matter, Ms Degeneres and the gorgeous Ms Rossi have managed to balance celebrity with privacy. It is feasible, should it be wished.

  9. I was reading through the text of her speech, and I was looking at the critique you linked to and I’m wondering if there’s possible confusion here. Please feel free to set me straight.

    She says she “came out” ages ago, then Sully comments that 2007 when she thanked her partner is not ages ago. I’m reading her statement not as “I came out in 2007 when I thanked my partner” but more as a “I told the people that matter in my life ages ago that I am gay and if you didn’t know it back in 1970, then that’s because you didn’t matter in my life.”

    I think if it was a coming out speech she did a horrible job of it, but I also wonder if thanks to the privilege of being a celebrity as well as the general greater acceptance of lesbians by mainstream America then the acceptance of gay men, if she feels that all matters of personal sexual preference really are no one’s business except those shared within close circles.

    Part of this is bias, I know. I do like Jodie Foster as an actress and I believe she is a very intelligent woman. I wonder if she felt that with getting this award she should say something about the value of privacy and that anything not related to “the work” should be hands off for everyone. The press shouldn’t be asking who’s dating who, and people (of any orientation) shouldn’t be having press conferences to announce their new beau’s. Then you add in a case of nerves and trying to give the speech without notes, and you get a little rambly. I mean, she is an actress, but film is different than stage.

    On the other hand there is a lot of my own experience flavoring these thoughts. I’ve never had to hide who I am or what I am as a straight white male. (well 90% straight. I’d totally go on a date with Tim Gunn).

    • My beefs are:

      1) I have zero patience with celebrities playing the martyr about their privacy. As I tried to point out in the OP (and the Gawker piece does to devastating effect), Jodie Foster has lived her entire life in incredible privilege and wealth. Has she earned it through her talent? Sure, fine. I won’t argue that she hasn’t. But with the wealth and privilege and glamour and accolades comes a cost, and that is public scrutiny and lack of privacy. If Ms. Foster does not like the terms of her fame, she can eschew it and stop living the life of a celebrity. I have no time for her whiny self-congratulation.

      2) Was she obligated to come out in a public way? No, again… I don’t think she had an actual moral obligation to do so. But it sure would have been courageous, and may have given some poor lesbian kid out there someone to look up to when there were precious few. However, if she chose to stay silent, the very very least she could do is refrain from offering oblique criticisms of those who did come out publicly. They did something brave that she avoided, and they deserve the gratitude of the LGBT community, not the sneers of one of its famous members who kept her secret, relatively openly or not.

      • Fair enough and as someone who’s white and straight I really can’t comment on “coming out” with any real sincerity. Getting beat up for admitting I liked Star Wars really isn’t on the same page as liking other boys.

        But there’s something in her rambling that’s resonating with me and I’m really struggling to put it words and it relates to privacy. It’s tied to the idea that ~anyone~ should be simply expected to live their life under a magnifying glass coupled with the idea that everyone now-a-days is happy to cast off their privacy for convenience until they find out that said convenience is not so convenient.

        I mean, let’s be honest, if you take pictures of yourself drunk and half naked and then post them to the internet, even with “friends lock” turned on, you should kind of expect that someone later in life is going to find them. Heck a photo that is 10 years old of me working with a history club gets picked up by students who like to derail a class with random questions. So I get that the world we live in is more and more open every day. But we all seem pretty okay with that.

        Foster was wrong to chastise people for wanting to be positive points of encouragement for kids that need it. Homosexuality is something our society is still struggling to accept. I’ve learned never to talk about it with my parents because, to my surprise, they are very conservative on the whole thing and there are better things to argue about (like how they voted to help abolish the teacher’s union which their son is apart of).

        On the other hand, and maybe I’m just in left field here, why is having a press conference to announce a sexual preference, or a coming baby, or a new marriage, or any thing else that we would consider a personal private thing considered “the norm”?

        Nathan Fillon, was asked by a blogger to take a picture of himself with a piece of twine. She likes to collect pictures of celebs holding twine. She’s famous enough that many like to appease her and like to feed her fame (she has a reputation for getting these photos) and to feed their own fame (they get talked about; Mathew Brodderick actually felt left out of the requests so he sent her a picture with a spatula).

        Fillion, however, refused to answer the requests until the badgering finally got to him. After repeated Twitter-bombs, email requests and being asked dozens of times at conventions, he posted a polite refusal to send the picture with the comment “You wouldn’t set out to collect pictures of the guy bagging groceries with twine, would you? Or a gardner? I’m a guy doing a job, no different than anyone else who gets up, goes to work and does their job.”

        Sure he ~looks~ like his job is all fun and he does get paid pretty well for it all. But I dont’ think he’s totally wrong either….

        I’m rambling and I really hope I’m not offending. I just don’t see where sexual preference, as related to a work or project, should be something I care about. We were referred to our pediatrian/ primary care doctor from a friend who is a lesbian who herself was referred to her because the doctor is known to be GLBT friendly. I ~think~ that the doctor herself is gay, but I’ve never asked and she has kids of her own, though she also has never mentioned a husband or boyfriend. Frankly she’s great with our kids, she’s great with us, she has a pretty good staff (one doctor had to learn a little bedside manner but has really come along in the last 5 years) and so I trust her with our medical needs.

        If she ever made a point of telling me she was gay (or not) I’d feel very awkward, unless it was in the context of wanting to engage my kids in a conversation about dealing with the stress of being gay themselves. Does this make me progressive, or am I in that “you’re white and straight and don’t get it” group?

        Sorry to ramble on this thread…. slow work day…

        • Frankly, I think Jodie Foster is arguing against a straw man. Nobody has a press conference to announce they’re gay. The closest I can think of was Ellen appearing on the cover of a major newsweekly back in the day with a headline along the lines of “Yup, I’m gay.” Which, as I mentioned upthread, was a tremendously courageous thing for her to do at the time, and exposed her to all manner of nastiness from the other side of the cultural divide.

          Should Nathan Fillion be buffaloed into doing something he doesn’t want to do, just because he’s a celebrity? No. We don’t own famous people, and I think our collective obsession with them is unhealthy on any number of levels. If Jodie Foster doesn’t want to discuss her private life in a public manner, I don’t fault her for it. But I do fault her for her implied criticisms of those who opted to come out publicly, and for her willingness to enjoy the incredible perks of fame while waxing indignant about its downsides.

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