Ethics Quote of the Month: Jodie Foster

Jodie foster

Why is Jodie Foster’s stream of consciousness speech as she accepted the Golden Globe’s lifetime achievement honor, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, worthy of praise for its ethical values?

  • It was genuine, open and honest. Celebrities are paid to live their lives in public, and all of them struggle to find the proper, fair, and sane balance between what they are obligated to show the world, and what they keep secure in their private lives. Nobody has struggled with this balance more than Foster, or suffered moire because of it. A performer since she was a toddler, she never really had a choice to live a normal life. Her speech was a gift to the public revealing inner thoughts and emotions about someone it cares about but has never known as well as it would like to.
  • It was kind and generous. She went out of her way to acknowledge people who have made a difference in her life and career. She even mentioned Mel Gibson, an industry pariah, letting her popularity bolster his lowly standing with her colleagues.
  • It was brave. Foster finally made it clear that she was gay, and also made it clear that revealing this much of her personal life was neither easy nor comfortable. Some activists have criticized her for not coming out more publicly and assertively long ago. She had no obligation to do this.  Foster’s choice to draw the line where a celebrity’s life is nobody’s business at her sexual orientation is reasonable and ought to be respected. She has never lied about her sexuality, or tried to deceive anyone: nobody who paid any attention to Jodie Foster knew she was gay decades ago. She chose to be seen as an actress and director, not a gay role model or advocate. That decision should be respected.
  • It was civil. No F-bombs, vulgarity or profanity in a nationally televised, live speech for a general audience. How many other Hollywood actors can we trust to have this amount of dignity and civility? Not many.
  • It was competent. Some press accounts described the speech as rambling and incoherent. No, it was spontaneous, complex, emotional, revealing and fascinating. Foster, unlike a sadly large proportion of her colleagues, including many who talk about things they know nothing about, is smart, clever and articulate. While there were some inside jokes and obscure references in the speech, if one couldn’t understand what she was saying, it wasn’t Jodie’s fault.
  • It was entertaining. That, after all, is her job when she is on television—to entertain. Foster said what she wanted to say, spoke from the heart, but still held every listener’s attention and made her remarks memorable, rather than forgetting her job in a typical Hollywood narcissism attack. That is the mark of a professional, and therefore…
  • It was professional.

Good job, Ms. Foster.

Here is the transcript of her speech:

“Well, for all of you ‘SNL’ fans, I’m 50! I’m 50! You know, I need to do that without this dress on, but you know, maybe later at Trader Vic’s, boys and girls. What do you say? I’m 50! You know, I was going to bring my walker tonight but it just didn’t go with the cleavage.

“Robert Downey, Jr., I want to thank you for everything: for your bat-crazed, rapid-fire brain, the sweet intro. I love you and Susan and I am so grateful that you continually talk me off the ledge when I go on and foam at the mouth and say, ‘I’m done with acting, I’m done with acting, I’m really done, I’m done, I’m done.’

“Trust me, 47 years in the film business is a long time. You just ask those Golden Globes, because you crazy kids, you’ve been around here forever. You know, Phil you’re a nut, Aida, Scott — thank you for honoring me tonight. It is the most fun party of the year, and tonight I feel like the prom queen.

“Thank you. Looking at all those clips, you know, the hairdos and the freaky platform shoes, it’s like a home-movie nightmare that just won’t end, and all of these people sitting here at these tables, they’re my family of sorts, you know. Fathers mostly. Executives, producers, the directors, my fellow actors out there, we’ve giggled through love scenes, we’ve punched and cried and spit and vomited and blown snot all over one another — and those are just the costars I liked. But you know more than anyone else I share my most special memories with members of the crew. Blood-shaking friendships, brothers and sisters. We made movies together, and you can’t get more intimate than that.

“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.

“I am single. Yes I am, I am single. No, I’m kidding — but I mean I’m not really kidding, but I’m kind of kidding. I mean, thank you for the enthusiasm. Can I get a wolf whistle or something? [Audio is silent for seven seconds] … be a big coming-out speech tonight because I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago back in the Stone Age, in those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family and co-workers and then gradually, proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met. But now I’m told, apparently that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show.

“You know, you guys might be surprised, but I am not Honey Boo Boo Child. No, I’m sorry, that’s just not me. It never was and it never will be. Please don’t cry because my reality show would be so boring. I would have to make out with Marion Cotillard or I’d have to spank Daniel Craig’s bottom just to stay on the air. It’s not bad work if you can get it, though.

“But seriously, if you had been a public figure from the time that you were a toddler, if you’d had to fight for a life that felt real and honest and normal against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else. Privacy.  Some day, in the future, people will look back and remember how beautiful it once was.

“I have given everything up there from the time that I was 3 years old. That’s reality-show enough, don’t you think?

“There are a few secrets to keeping your psyche intact over such a long career. The first, love people and stay beside them. That table over there, 222, way out in Idaho, Paris, Stockholm, that one, next to the bathroom with all the unfamous faces, the very same faces for all these years. My acting agent, Joe Funicello — Joe, do you believe it, 38 years we’ve been working together? Even though he doesn’t count the first eight.

“Matt Saver, Pat Kingsley, Jennifer Allen, Grant Niman and his uncle Jerry Borack, may he rest in peace. Lifers. My family and friends here tonight and at home, and of course, Mel Gibson. You know you save me too.

“There is no way I could ever stand here without acknowledging one of the deepest loves of my life, my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love but righteous soul sister in life, my confessor, ski buddy, consigliere, most beloved BFF of 20 years, Cydney Bernard. Thank you, Cyd. I am so proud of our modern family. Our amazing sons, Charlie and Kit, who are my reason to breathe and to evolve, my blood and soul. And boys, in case you didn’t know it, this song, all of this, this song is for you.

“This brings me to the greatest influence of my life, my amazing mother, Evelyn. Mom, I know you’re inside those blue eyes somewhere and that there are so many things that you won’t understand tonight. But this is the only important one to take in: I love you, I love you, I love you. And I hope that if I say this three times, it will magically and perfectly enter into your soul, fill you with grace and the joy of knowing that you did good in this life. You’re a great mom. Please take that with you when you’re finally OK to go.

“You see, Charlie and Kit, sometimes your mom loses it too. I can’t help but get moony, you know. This feels like the end of one era and the beginning of something else. Scary and exciting and now what? Well, I may never be up on this stage again, on any stage for that matter. Change, you gotta love it. I will continue to tell stories, to move people by being moved, the greatest job in the world. It’s just that from now on, I may be holding a different talking stick. And maybe it won’t be as sparkly, maybe it won’t open on 3,000 screens, maybe it will be so quiet and delicate that only dogs can hear it whistle. But it will be my writing on the wall. Jodie Foster was here, I still am, and I want to be seen, to be understood deeply and to be not so very lonely.

“Thank you, all of you, for the company. Here’s to the next 50 years.”


Graphic: E!

21 thoughts on “Ethics Quote of the Month: Jodie Foster

  1. Jack,

    Sometimes I am frustrated by your sometimes-wrong-but-never-in-doubt in-your-face positions. But other times, you get something just so, very, right. I think this is one of those times.

    Yours is the best explanation I’ve seen of the surface-random walk of Foster’s speech. It even makes it all seem quite obvious. Reading her speech after your explanation (and thanks for including the text, very helpful and convenient), it made much more sense than before.

    Well done.

  2. Jack, I’ll add my voice to your perfect summary of Ms. Foster’s acceptance speech. When I first heard her words, I experienced an emotional response that was made more intense as she continued. She was articulate, impassioned and loving while maintaining a boundary not often seen by celebrities. I found it annoying then, to read the all-too-predictable subsequent news articles written by hacks who did not get it, cannot or will not ever “get it.” Your comments remind me there is still hope in the world…

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed Foster’s speech and I was a bit perplexed to see all of the comments the following day about how it was rambling, didn’t make sense…that she must have been drinking, etc. I thought it was heartfelt. I think the only reason someone could think otherwise is because it was a personal message from someone who is a private person, leaving others a bit in the dark about some of the things she was referencing.
    Perhaps some lessons on active listening are in order.

  4. I’d say that speech started out with a rambling feel, but by the end of it, it appeared pretty solid. I’d like to point out the dog whistle line and how it ties back to the silence after her wolf whistle comment. If she set that up, it was genius. If it was an ad lib, it’s even more genius.

  5. Pingback: Ethics Quote of the Month: Jodie Foster | Ethics |

  6. Oh, barf! Has everyone forgotten that it was Jodie Foster who introduced preteen children as sex objects into American movies and the culture? While she can’t be blamed for it (at age 12) does anyone seriously think it didn’t affect her mentality? Being homosexual is only part of it, if you look back on her life. Personally, I’m sick to death of seeing broken Hollywood children being lionized over their breakage- just as I am the concurrent upholding of the deviant system that makes them that way and keeps them that way well into adulthood. Every one of these unending celebrity pageants does nothing more than whitewash the insanity, perversity and criminality that lies behind it.

    • As you say—she can hardly be blamed for the parts she played when she was 12—and in her long career, I’d say there are few female child stars who can match her record of avoiding gratuitous nudity or sexual content. Even Margaret O’Brien did “Heller in Pink Tights”….

      • The point, Jack, was that this kind of exploitation in one’s tender years- on film before the entire world and with the connivance of parents and handlers- is almost certain to have a negative effect on a child throughout life. She HAS generally avoided much of the gratuitous SC in her films. But her psyche was been marred in other ways, as she herself has admitted. She’s yet to come to a point where, like other stars past their heyday, the spectre of “fame loss” has driven her to perform in overtly cheap and squalid films. You mentioned Margaret O’Brien. The list is lengthy beyond her. I still think of the once delightful Piper Laurie and what she sank to in “Hounddog”. I’m also aware that it was Jodie Foster’s example that was used to sell that worst of all American films to its own 12 year old star. These things have consequences beyond just the individuals. But what it does to those individuals is tragic enough.

        • I’m not arguing, but I don’t see how any of this indicts Foster. None of her films, since she had any control over them, have been anything but serious and admirable. I’d say that the John Hinckley trauma would have driven a lot of women, even most, into hiding and permanent psychosis. She’s been an amazingly resilient figure, proof that if you’re smart and strong enough, even the warped upbringing of child stardom can be largely overcome.

          • It’s perfect Jack. I’m Brazilian and an admirer of Jodie. I would say, I’ve been growing up with her and along the years I’ve been watching her drama as a serious actress and a human being trying to make difference in show business. Art is culture. Jodie is amazing besides being highly talented and intelligent. I measure your words one by one, wise and mindfull. I’m sorry if someone could ever mention or relates homossexuality to artistic expression; it’s nonsense. Thanks.

  7. That’s just it, Jack. I’m not “indicting” her on that. I do indict her as an ADULT for not being able to throw off the twisted childhood she endured. Others have had childhoods that would make her’s seem like a dream and have gone on to admirable lives. Jodie Foster fell into homosexuality, adopting CHILDREN on the basis of a same-sex relationship and, I might add, making some films that were just plain nauseating for gratuitous violence and other content. Anyone who was led to do something like “Taxi Driver” should have become the biggest advocate ever for clean films and decency with children; on or off the set. In too many ways, she’s become an ongoing part of the problem. She’s hardly alone in this, to be sure. Nor is she by any means the worst offender. But that does not exonerate her.

    • 1. I can’t imagine a better, more responsible mother than Jodie Foster.
      2. What indecent film has Foster ever been involved with, as an adult? There isn’t one. “Anna and the King of Siam”? “The Beaver” has an unfortunate title, but it’s really about a beaver puppet, you know. “Nell” was impossible to watch and an indecent waste of my time, but clean as the driven snow. “Contact”? “The Brave”? “Flight Plan”? “Panic Room”? “Little Man Tate”? “Maverick?” If you have a beef with horror films, that;s your choice, but “Silence of the Lambs” is a damn good movie, and Foster is the center of good in the film. What ARE you talking about?

      If Foster ran Hollywood, its product would by 10,000% more responsible and values-supportive than it is. Also more boring—how many Mama Bear films can one take?—but exploiting kids? Foster has never exploited a child in her life.

  8. I was thinking exactly of “Silence of the Lambs”, Jack. I’m also of the opinion that a movie doesn’t have to be sadistically violent or otherwise R-rated to disqualify as a “Mama Bear” flick. The essence of our contention, though (and predictably) is the issue of homosexual unions and adoptions. I consider this an unholy evil, as I’ve made plain previously. I won’t go into this in detail, as I already have before. But I cannot look with favor on anyone who openly engages in this sort of thing or who renders children susceptible to it through their influence; direct or indirect.

  9. Good job on the O’reilly Factor,i would love to see you on there again. Thanks for the great website and all the good reads on it.
    Regards, SteveO

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