Skip to main content

Was Jodie Foster's Speech Really all that Brave?

  • Author:
  • Updated:


An interesting perspective from Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman:

The problem some of us had with what Foster said was not only what she said, but the showbiz marshmallow-world from within which she said it. We all have our own relative hardships and obstacles, but she wasn’t speaking from a place of commercial or physical risk or danger. She was collecting an award. Her visibility is important, but we should perhaps be slow to laud her fearlessness....

As chance would have it, I read the ecstatic reports of Foster’s speech the morning after the ceremony while I was on my way to court to support a friend who was the victim last year of a violent homophobic assault. He had been attacked after answering in the affirmative when asked if he was gay. Bravery comes in different forms, different strengths, but I’ll take his version over the one delivered by an adored performer who need not fear very much beyond bad reviews or inadequate opening-weekend box-office.

I'm a fan of Foster's - I think she's a tremendous actress who seems like a pretty nice person (although I have no idea whether she is or not of course). But I can't help but think the media's reaction to her 'coming out' was a bit over the top. It was certainly helpful for her to do it given her visibility and it will no doubt serve as a reminder to those struggling with their sexuality that it really is OK to be gay. But brave? I'm not so sure. There are thousands of openly gay people in prominent positions all around the country who made the decision to come out far, far earlier than Foster did (the actress is 50 years old) and I'm sure most of them wouldn't regard her speech as particularly brave given the industry she works in. Hollywood is ridiculously liberal in comparison with virtually every other industry/city/culture on the planet. Foster has been one of the power players in the industry for decades and has successfully navigated her career with everyone knowing she was gay anyway.

It was definitely a great speech and a boost for the gay community, but there was little to no danger in doing it. It would have been brave 20 years ago when it really could have damaged her career, but she decided along with many other gay actors and actresses to keep it a private issue. No one should blame her for keeping her sexuality private for so long. It's her business and there should be no requirements that she lay out the details of her private life to anyone, just as everyone in Hollywood's heterosexuality is no one's business either.

So yes, it's great she came out now and lent her voice to the growing openly gay community, but it really wasn't that big of a deal given the time and industry she works in.