Actress Jodie Foster discussed privacy during her speech at the Golden Globes
Professor says there are a multitude of outlets for stars personal drama to be shared
Writer took exception to some of Foster's comments
It might seem a bit strange that actress Jodie Foster chose an event watched by millions to make the case for the need for privacy.
Well, this is Hollywood, after all.
The celebrated actress took the occasion of receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award at Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony to make several personal statements – including a few that weren’t exactly clear. But one thing Foster was definitive about was how much she values her privacy.
In a speech that many found to be touching and which appeared to address gossip about her sexual orientation, the 50-year-old Foster reflected on being in show business since she was 3 years old.
“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,” she said, to cheers from the Golden Globes crowd.
But how realistic is the expectation of privacy in an age where many celebrities depend on their social media connection to fans more than they do traditional marketing machines and every moment of their lives is reported in the media?
Long gone are the days when a studio would work with journalists to bury negative press about stars or protect their personal lives, said Robert J. Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.
“Everybody who is carrying around a cell phone has the ability to take a picture of you behaving badly, getting in trouble,” Thompson said. “People have been hounding celebrities for as long as their have been celebrities, but now there are just so many more venues to where the results of that hounding can go.”
And in some cases the celebrities are feeding into those venues. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts are almost mandatory for the 21st-century star who can choose to reveal themselves to millions of fans without having to hold a press conference or even leaving their homes. Take Rihanna and Chris Brown, whose reignited connection has been thoroughly documented by the pair via their social media accounts – and just as thoroughly criticized by music fans and the news media.
Yet these same celebrities will sometimes insist that they hope the media will “respect their privacy.” While a writer for Newsweek, journalist Steve Tuttle tackled the issue in a piece titled “Pay Attention and Leave Me Alone” in which he noted that “How I Met Your Mother” star Neil Patrick Harris announced on Twitter that he and his partner David were expecting twins while “Hoping the press can respect our privacy.”
“Seriously? Why did you tweet this personal information if you wanted privacy?” Tuttle wrote. “I think Harris is an extremely gifted and funny guy, but this is yet another in a long line of celebrities asking us to respect their privacy while at the same time broadcasting news about their family or career – and I’m only talking about the last week or so.”
Not that Foster has ever been the type to share even the most benign parts of her personal life, yet alone on social media. Which may be why some viewers waited with bated breath when she announced at the Globes that she had “a sudden urge to say something that I’ve never really been able to air in public.”
“I am single,” Foster said after a bit of a buildup. The audience laughed.
“Seriously, I hope that you’re not disappointed that there won’t be a big coming-out speech tonight because I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago back in the Stone Age, very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family, co-workers and then gradually, proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met,” she continued.
“But now apparently, I’m told 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,” Foster said. “And you guys might be surprised, but I am not Honey Boo Boo Child. No. I’m sorry. That’s just not me.”
While many cheered Foster’s remarks, some were less than enthused. Wall Street Journal writer Eric Sasson wrote, “It seems a bit less than gracious, and something of a stretch, for Foster to conflate the public’s desire to know about her orientation with a fragrance-toting, prime-time-reality-show mugging celebrity culture.”
“Was Martina Navratilova acting like Honey Boo Boo Child when she came out,” Sasson said. “How about Barney Frank, or Elton John, or Ellen? Foster seems to be suggesting that it’s the absurd degree to which the media and the world no longer value privacy that has forced her to hold on to her own so tightly. But Jodie Foster is 50 years old, and Honey Boo Boo Child hasn’t been around for more than a year.”
Fellow former child actor Seth Green discussed the issue of privacy in a recent “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast and said he traces the interest to the rise in the tabloid culture over the past few years that has people enthralled with the lives of celebrities.
“All of a sudden (celebs) are being put out as the most important kings and queens of our community,” Green said.
In general, Green said, the public “are becoming increasingly fascinated with pop culture and shiny things and squashed and stretched animated versions of our superheroes. We are becoming less and less concerned about privacy, security.”
Syracuse professor Thompson said that with the 24-hour news cycle and so many publications trying to outdo each other in terms of exclusives, celebrity “images and barging in on their privacy is a cottage industry for a lot of people.”
Should celebrities feel entitled to privacy? “Maybe,” he said. “But should you expect that you are going to get it?”