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“I’m fifty!” she begins her acceptance speech, channeling a long forgotten 90s SNL character played by Molly Shannon, but to the eyes of everyone watching those words cease to have any meaning.
For 47 of those 50 years, she’s been a part of our lives and it’s as though she’s barely aged a day since she become the stand out child performer of the 70s, before transitioning into becoming one of the most successful female actors in movie history.
“Tonight I feel like the prom queen,” she tells everyone as she holds her Cecil B. DeMille award, but unlike most prom queens she isn’t about to just accept her tiara and let the moment pass. Not this time. She has things to say - and if it she can’t say them now, then when?
“So while I’m here being all confessional,” she goes on after honouring all of the people she’d worked with in her long career, “and…uh…I guess I just have a sudden urge to say something that…aum…I’ve never really been able to air in public, so a declaration I’m a little nervous about. Maybe not quite as nervous as my publicist right now. Hi Jennifer. Auuuuummm, but y’know I’m just going to put it out there, right? Loud and proud, right? So…aum…I’m going to need your support on this. I am…single.”
It wasn’t the declaration we were expecting, but it was the one we deserved. One could argue that the better word would have been “singular”, because there has been no other Hollywood star like Jodie Foster—a performer whose popularity has only ever been strengthened by her fierce determination to keep her public and private lives separate.
“Can I get a wolf whistle or something?” she asks the crowd. One of those who respond is a man sitting at her table, whose presence causes instant grumblings on Twitter as soon as he is spotted earlier in the proceedings. People wonder what he is doing there and why he is even allowed to attend.
For the answer all they have to do is listen to this speech, in which Jodie declares that she refuses to live her life based on our unfair expectations. Seeing this former star turned cultural pariah at her side one could almost imagine her recreating one of the most transcendent moments in a movie in which she did not appear, 1993s Tombstone.
“Why did you invite that guy to sit with you at your table?” asks Twitter en masse. “Because Mel Gibson is my friend,” she answers back, echoing Val Kilmer’s Doc Holiday. “Shoot,” says Twitter, “We have a lot of friends.” “I don’t,” says Foster, explaining a kind of loyalty many find as indefensible as others find it moving.
“I hope you’re not disappointed that there won’t be a big coming out speech tonight,” she continues, addressing the elephant now standing beside Gibson in the room, “because I already did my coming out 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 and proudly to everyone who knew her. To everyone she actually met.
"But now, apparently, I’m told that every celebrity is expected to honour the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime time reality show.”
But Jodie is not every celebrity. “I am not Honey Boo Boo child,” she tells us before making a few jokes. “But seriously,” she switches gears, “if you had been a public figure from the time you were a toddler—if you 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,” she repeats in a way that makes it clear it is a word she values above all.
“I have given everything up there from the time I was 3 years old. That’s reality show enough, don’t you think?” And with that proclamation of her refusal to be a public role model, she transforms into one.
For her entire life she has given us a part of herself. Is it really fair for us to insist that she give us more? That she give us everything, until there’s nothing left? Let her stand as a symbol that we are all human, even those touched with that gift/curse that makes strangers care about their existence—and as human’s we have the right to live our lives privately, no matter how much anyone else argues otherwise.
She then thanks her, “heroic co-parent, ex-partner in love, but righteous soul sister in life,” Cydney Bernard and praises her two sons, telling them, “this song is for you.” She tells her mother, Evelyn, now lost to dementia, that she loves her and that she was a great mom and asks her to, “Please take that with you when you are finally okay to go.”
It’s at this when the tears come. Hers, mine and from many in the crowd. Having so moved us, it’s now when she makes the real declaration of this speech—the one people will ignore in favour of other things, but the one that is actually far more significant.
“This feels like the end of one era and the beginning of another,” she says. “I’m never going to be up on this stage again. On any stage for that matter. Change. Gotta love it.”
No, we don’t Jodie. We can respect it. We can understand it, but we don’t have to love it if it means saying goodbye to someone we’re all going to miss. “Jodie Foster was here,” she says. “I still am and I want to be seen, to be understood deeply, and to not be so very lonely.”
None of us reading this can understand the life Jodie Foster has lived. This is a woman with so much cultural history people actually forget she once served as the inspiration for a wannabe presidential assassin. If that’s just a footnote in your tale, can you imagine what else is there to be found?
She’s belonged to us for almost half-a-century now. It seems fair to let her have the next half to herself. And maybe by the time she hits 100, she’ll actually look something like the 50 year-old she proudly proclaimed being right when this amazing moment began.
Follow Allan on Twitter @houseofglib.