Friday, August 17, 2012

Jodie Foster Blasts Kristen Stewart–Robert Pattinson Break-Up Spectacle

Jodie Foster Has Some Things To Say About Celebrity Culture

By Jen Chaney, Washington Post’s Celebritology, 15 August 2012)

Foster on today’s celeb culture: “I would quit before I started.” (Matt Sayles - Invision via AP)

Jodie Foster has come to the defense of her media-battered “Panic Room” co-star Kristen Stewart in a new essay for the Daily Beast.  This should not be particularly surprising, as Foster is known for being very loyal to her colleagues, as well as for being a former child star who strongly values one’s need to maintain privacy. What’s more compelling — at least from this Celebritologist’s perspective — is what Foster has to say about celebrity culture circa 2012.

”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,” she writes, referring to her rise to movie stardom in the 1970s. “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? . . . I’ve said it before and I will say it again: if I were a young actor today I would quit before I started. If I had to grow up in this media culture, I don’t think I could survive it emotionally. I would only hope that someone who loved me, really loved me, would put their arm around me and lead me away to safety.”

Is Foster right? Has the notion of celebrity transformed drastically since she swapped identities with Barbara Harris in the 1976 version of “Freaky Friday”?  As the Oscar winner notes in the piece, we’ve always been interested in gossip and the none-of-our-beeswax details about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. But there’s no question that, as Foster says and I implied in a piece this week about the Olympics and fame, celebrity-coverage times have changed. The question is: Why?

Foster mentions social media and a general sense that members of the press and the paparazzi not only regularly cross the line, but have stopped acknowledging there is one. But should we blame Twitter for that? The TMZ-ification of America? Our personal appetites for fresh, nitty-gritty details about the famous people we admire as quickly as we can consume them?

Honestly, it’s a swirling mess of all the above. Technology has collided with human nature and created a culture in which everything — including our interest in and, by extension, the generation of entertainment news — is accelerated and magnified. Once upon a time, we might have merely wondered what was really going on in Stewart’s love life. Now we can actively hunt down and often find the details, true or wholly invented, via a few taps on our iPhones, then share those possibly false details with a side order of snarky commentary on our Twitter feeds, which will, in turn, be cited as evidence of the national opinion on the important matter of whether or not Stewart is, officially, a trampire. And all of this can happen in less time than it takes to pick up an order of fast food.

Celebritology, like so many blogs and news outlets, admittedly sits smack in the middle of that bizarre place where an interest in Hollywood personalities and possible invasion of privacy meet. Every day, blogs such as this one attempt to serve as fun but responsible pop culture barometers, to convey the significant celebrity and entertainment stories of the day without stepping on any editorial land mine. I know how much our readers are interested in the Robert Pattinson/Kristen Stewart story, for instance, and I want to give them what they want but (ideally) while maintaining some semblance of class. But maybe all of us, myself included, should say no to certain stories more often. Perhaps we should stop and take a breath, even when everything happening in the world around us says: “Go, go, go! Now, now, now! Publish, publish, publish!”

It’s certainly not a bad idea. But even if the People magazines and Vultures and, yes, Washington Posts of the world did just that, it probably still would not resolve the issues Foster raises.  In fact, the conclusion of Foster’s essay suggests that it’s impossible to put the celebrity-culture genie back into the bottle. She acknowledges at the end of her piece that even the biggest headline-generating entertainment story is just a temporary storm cloud, another thing that too shall pass. She encourages Stewart, and other young stars like her, to hold on to their capacity to live life fully, even though they may need to be simultaneously guarded while they’re doing it.

But it seems that’s the best they can do. Because regardless of how they handle themselves, someone — whether it’s a legitimate reporter or just your average celebrity fanatic with a FlipCam — will be there to capture that candid photo or relay precisely where a reality star can currently be found slurping margaritas with a married NFL player. And via the Internet, that information will spread.

There is no turning the car around, kids. The question that all of us — entertainment journalists, tabloid scribes, movie stars and consumers of pop culture news — must consider is whether we can all do a better job of following the rules of the road while we continue our journey on what Mr. Pattinson himself calls “the craziest theme park ride” we’ve ever been on.

(By Jodie Foster, The Daily Beast,  15 August 2012)

 We’ve all seen the headlines at the check-out counter. “Kristen Stewart Caught.” We’ve all thumbed the glossy pages here and there. “Kris and Rob a couple?” We all catch the snaps. “I like that dress. I hate the hair. Cute couple. Bad shoes.” There’s no guilt in acknowledging the human interest in public linens. It’s as old as the hills. Lift up beautiful young people like gods and then pull them down to earth to gaze at their seams. See, they’re just like us. But we seldom consider the childhoods we unknowingly destroy in the process.

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?

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: if I were a young actor today I would quit before I started. If I had to grow up in this media culture, I don’t think I could survive it emotionally. I would only hope that someone who loved me, really loved me, would put their arm around me and lead me away to safety. Sarah Tobias would never have danced before her rapists in The Accused. Clarice would never have shared the awful screaming of the lambs to Dr. Lecter. Another actress might surely have taken my place, opened her soul to create those characters, surrendered her vulnerabilities. But would she have survived the paparazzi peering into her windows, the online harassment, the public humiliations, without overdosing in a hotel room or sticking her face with needles until she became unrecognizable even to herself?

Acting is all about communicating vulnerability, allowing the truth inside yourself to shine through regardless of whether it looks foolish or shameful. To open and give yourself completely. It is an act of freedom, love, connection. Actors long to be known in the deepest way for their subtleties of character, for their imperfections, their complexities, their instincts, their willingness to fall. The more fearless you are, the more truthful the performance. How can you do that if you know you will be personally judged, skewered, betrayed? If you’re smart, you learn to willfully disassociate, to compartmentalize. Putting your emotions into a safety box definitely comes in handy when the public throws stones. The point is to survive, intact or not, whatever the emotional cost. 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.

In 2001 I spent 5 months with Kristen Stewart on the set of Panic Room mostly holed up in a space the size of a Manhattan closet. We talked and laughed for hours, sharing spontaneous mysteries and venting our boredom. I grew to love that kid. She turned 11 during our shoot and on her birthday I organized a mariachi band to serenade her at the taco bar while she blew out her candles. She begrudgingly danced around a sombrero with me but soon rushed off to a basketball game with the grip and electric departments. Her mother and I watched her jump around after the ball, hooting with every team basket. “She doesn’t want to be an actor when she grows up, does she?” I asked. Her mom sighed. “Yes … unfortunately.” We both smiled and shrugged with an ambivalence born from experience. “Can’t you talk her out of it?” I offered. “Oh, I’ve tried. She loves it. She just loves it.” More sighs. We watched her run around the court for a while, both of us silent, each thinking our own thoughts. I was pregnant at the time and found myself daydreaming of the child I might have soon. Would she be just like Kristen? All that beautiful talent and fearlessness … would she jump and dunk and make me so proud?

There’s this image I have of a perfect moment. It comes to me as a square format 8mm home movie with ’70s oversaturated reds and blues, no sound, just a scratchy loop … there’s a little white-haired girl twirling in the surf. She’s singing at the top of her lungs, jumping and spinning around in the cold water, all salty, sandy, full of joy and confidence. She’s unconscious of the camera, of course, in her own world. The camera shakes a little. Perhaps her mom’s laughing behind the lens. Could a child be more loved than in this moment? She’s perfect. She is absolutely perfect.

Cut to: Today … A beautiful young woman strides down the sidewalk alone, head down, hands drawn into fists. She’s walking fast, darting around huge men with black cameras thrusting at her mouth and chest. “Kristen, how do you feel?” “Smile Kris!” “Hey, hey, did you get her?” “I got her. I got her!” The young woman doesn’t cry. Fuck no. She doesn’t look up. She’s learned. She keeps her head down, her shades on, fists in her pockets. Don’t speak. Don’t look. Don’t cry.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment