Commentators around the country have been dissecting Jodie Foster’s quasi-coming-out speech from the Golden Globes on Sunday. Few seem to have a clue what prompted the meandering speech after decades of refusing to speak publicly about her sexual orientation, but most everyone agrees that the speech straddled the line between coming out and not.
In what quickly emerged as the most talked-about incident of the evening, the 50-year-old Oscar winner took the stage to accept the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award only to declare a “sudden urge” to say something she has never been able to air in public.
“I am single. Yes I am, I am single,” Foster continued. “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?”
The broadcast audio inexplicably cut out for seven seconds at that point, leaving many viewers to assume Foster had let loose a fleeting expletive. However, the AP reports that “nothing off-color was said.” (Some viewers have reported that the audio was cut right after Foster delivered the preamble to the speech, while the UK-based newspaper the Guardian published a transcript of the speech that quotes Foster as exclaiming, "Jesus!" which may explain the presumed censorship.)
“I hope you’re not disappointed that there won't be a big coming-out speech tonight,” the “Panic Room” actress continued once the audio was restored. “I already did my coming-out about a thousand years ago back in the Stone Age. … 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.”
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Foster, who has been acting since age 3, went on to say that viewers might understand her desire for privacy if they too had been under public scrutiny their entire lives. She then made an apparent lament for the decline of privacy itself: “Privacy. Someday, in the future, people will look back and remember how beautiful it once was.”
Foster’s reluctance to discuss her sexuality openly has sometimes put her at odds with more outspoken members of the LGBT community. In the early 1990s, gay-rights activists plastered telephone poles in New York City with posters of Foster’s face under the headline “Absolutely Queer.” Following the release of 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs,” for which Foster won an Oscar, LGBT activists blasted the film as homophobic, saying the character Jame Gumb -- a bisexual, transvestite serial killer -- perpetuated homophobic stereotypes.
In recent years, Foster has become slightly more open, particularly in regards to her longtime relationship with her now-former lover, Cydney Bernard, to whom she referred as “my beautiful Cydney” during an acceptance speech in 2007.
The actress again referred to Bernard on Sunday, calling her “one of the deepest loves of my life" and going on to describe her as “my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love but righteous soul sister in life, my confessor, ski buddy, consiglieri, most beloved BFF of 20 years.”
Despite Foster’s earlier contention that there “won’t be a big coming-out speech tonight,” one could easily argue that that’s precisely what was made. Toward the end of her speech, the actress was clearly feeling as if she had dropped a bomb on the audience, making references to “the end of one era and the beginning of something else.” She even hinted that she may never be up on stage again -- a comment that led some to speculate about her possible retirement but in hindsight seemed merely to convey her fear that she had just irrevocably damaged her public image. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but evidence of an apparent, painful insecurity may at least help some of Foster’s critics understand why she has stayed silent for so long.