So, this whole Robert Pattinson/Kristen Stewart break-up thing. This thing. I know we're all worked up about this thing (although I have no idea why—holy shit, woman kisses man!?), but Jodie Foster would like all of us to please calm down. For fucking shame.
Foster penned a really heartfelt, lovely op-ed at The Daily Beast today about fame, Kristen Stewart's 11th birthday party, and how our celebrity culture gobbles starlets alive. Take it away, Jodie:
I have been an actress since I was 3 years old, 46 years to date. I have no memories of a childhood outside the public eye. I am told people look to me as a success story. Often complete strangers approach me and ask, How have you stayed so normal, so well-adjusted, so private? I usually lie and say, "Just boring I guess." The truth is, like some curious radioactive mutant, I have invented my own gothic survival tools. I have fashioned rules to control the glaring eyes. Maybe I've organized my career choices to allow myself (and the ones I truly love) maximum personal dignity. And, yes, I have neurotically adapted to the gladiator sport of celebrity culture, the cruelty of a life lived as a moving target. In my era, through discipline and force of will, you could still manage to reach for a star-powered career and have the authenticity of a private life. Sure, you'd have to lose your spontaneity in the elaborate architecture. You'd have to learn to submerge beneath the foul air and breathe through a straw. But at least you could stand up and say, I will not willfully participate in my own exploitation. Not anymore. If I were a young actor or actress starting my career today in the new era of social media and its sanctioned hunting season, would I survive? Would I drown myself in drugs, sex, and parties? Would I be lost?
You can read the whole thing here, but her conclusion is...yes. She would be lost. And if she had to start all over again, in the age of social media, she would tell herself to stay out of show business. Foster also adds:
Actors who become celebrities are supposed to be grateful for the public interest. After all, they're getting paid. Just to set the record straight, a salary for a given on-screen performance does not include the right to invade anyone's privacy, to destroy someone's sense of self.
Okay. I pretty much agree with that—I think intrusive paparazzi are fucking disgusting (also, WHO CARES THAT JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT GOT A PINKBERRY ON HER WAY HOME FROM YOGA), and I certainly don't endorse "destroying" anyone's "sense of self." But it's possible to comment on the lives of celebrities without exploiting celebrities. (Personally, as someone who's professionally obligated to comment on celebrity life, I focus on making fun of the absurdity of tabloid journalism itself, rather than what the celebrities are actually doing, unless they are doing something reprehensible, like being racist, in which case the gloves are off. The end.)
But I'm not sure I agree with the idea that actors are paid only for "a given on-screen performance," full-stop. Even if it's not official, they are being compensated, to some extent, for dealing with the circus. I mean, is Reese Witherspoon's acting really worth 1000 times more than some regular lady working at a non-profit? Or a grocery store? Or a restaurant? Also, some celebrities do manage to keep their lives private. You never hear anyone talking about, say, Daniel Day Lewis. Because if you don't play the game, then you're out of it. Tabloids aren't interested in people who don't play the game. These people have publicists. To make them public. If they're not public enough, their publicity person makes them more public.
Anyway, in general, I'm with you, Foster. I think there is most certainly a line (I am a believer in lines), and we could all benefit from being a little less cruel to celebrities (and regular humans, for that matter). I'm definitely not interested in deliberately crushing Kristen Stewart's sense of childlike wonder:
My mother had a saying that she doled out after every small injustice, every heartbreak, every moment of abject suffering. "This too shall pass." God, I hated that phrase. It always seemed so banal and out of touch, like she was telling me my pain was irrelevant. Now it just seems quaint, but oddly true … Eventually this all passes. The public horrors of today eventually blow away. And, yes, you are changed by the awful wake of reckoning they leave behind. You trust less. You calculate your steps. You survive. Hopefully in the process you don't lose your ability to throw your arms in the air again and spin in wild abandon. That is the ultimate F.U. and-finally-the most beautiful survival tool of all. Don't let them take that away from you.
And anyway, this whole Robsten break-up is like the boringest "scandal" ever. Call me when Joaquin Phoenix, Lindsay Lohan, and Matthew McConaughey adopt a baby together in some sort of Two Men and a Baby and Some Cocaine and a Bongo publicity scheme. (Joaquin Phoenix plays the baby.)