The XX Factor

Jodie Foster’s Self-Defeating Plea for Privacy

Jodie Foster wonders why you are interested in her life.

Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

One of the biggest moments at last night’s Golden Globes was Jodie Foster’s wide-ranging, some might say rambling acceptance speech for her Lifetime Achievement Award. Erroneously dubbed by some a coming-out speech, Foster noted that, “I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago.” So what was it?

A very unproductive plea for privacy. Like my colleague J. Bryan Lowder, I think Foster has a right to that privacy—while this might seem obvious, many disagree—but the approach that she’s taken to safeguarding her private life simply hasn’t gotten her what she wants.

It’s absolutely unfair to ask gay celebrities to become spokesmen for political causes, or to demand that they excavate their personal journeys for our consumption or comfort. But it might have been more strategic all these years for Foster, in as much as she talked about her life in public at all, to treat who she was dating or what her sexual orientation is as basic facts, not secrets to be hidden or revealed.

The Tony Awards audience may have been surprised when Cherry Jones kissed her then-girlfriend and fellow actress Sarah Paulson after winning a Tony for her performance as a rigid nun in Doubt, but that was on them to process. Similarly, when Foster last night praised “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, consigliore, most-beloved BFF of 20 years, Cydney Bernard,” that was all she really needed to say. Instead Foster attempted to defend her right not to talk about the intimate details of her private life in front of an international audience via a speech about her private life in front of an international audience. It seemed, at the very least, self-defeating.