January 14, 2013
(John Shearer/Invision) There she is. There she is. (John Shearer/Invision)

To call Jodie Foster’s rambling Golden Globes speech a trifle bizarre is like saying that “Finnegan’s Wake” was a tad opaque. I am still recovering, and it was hours ago. Later she and Clint Eastwood will go woo some chairs together.

This was a ramble in the sense that “The Odyssey” was a ramble — a long, bizarre journey, with dogs and magic sticks somehow involved. Also in the sense that I have no idea what large sections of it mean, and it might be easier to understand in the original Greek.

Perhaps it should not have been as noteworthy as it was. We live in a great age of the celebrity ramble. Charlie Sheen provided the canonical example of the genre. But coming in the middle of the Golden Globes, it was striking.

“I can’t help but get moony, you know,” Foster said. “This feels like the end of one era and the beginning of something else. Scary and exciting and now what? Well, I may never be up on this stage again, on any stage for that matter. Change, you gotta love it. I will continue to tell stories, to move people by being moved, the greatest job in the world. It’s just that from now on, I may be holding a different talking stick. And maybe it won’t be as sparkly, maybe it won’t open on 3,000 screens, maybe it will be so quiet and delicate that only dogs can hear it whistle. But it will be my writing on the wall. Jodie Foster was here, I still am, and I want to be seen, to be understood deeply and to be not so very lonely.”

A dog whistle talking stick? This sounds like the sort of thing we are always desperately trying to keep out of presidential politics.

As someone quipped on Twitter, “Now her friendship with Mel Gibson makes perfect sense.”

The speech had its moments. Foster noted, according to the L. A. Times transcript:

“I am single. Yes I am, I am single. 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? [Audio is silent for seven seconds] … be a big coming-out speech tonight because I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago back in the Stone Age, in those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family and co-workers and then gradually, proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met. 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. I would have to make out with Marion Cotillard or I’d have to spank Daniel Craig’s bottom just to stay on the air. It’s not bad work if you can get it, though.

“But seriously, 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. Privacy.  Some day, in the future, people will look back and remember how beautiful it once was.

“I have given everything up there from the time that I was 3 years old. That’s reality-show enough, don’t you think?”

Every time I start to think the speech was better than I initially supposed, I remember that Jodie Foster was responsible for “The Beaver,” where Mel Gibson tried to woo back audiences using a beaver hand puppet, and my heart hardens.

On paper, it’s oddly endearing — as they no doubt said of “The Beaver.” But when you were actually watching, it was strange and surreal. Like “The Beaver.” I cannot reference “The Beaver” enough.

It was, in short, the kind of speech you would give if you thought “The Beaver” was a good idea.

I would say that the oddest thing about it was that Foster insisted on privacy, but that would be false. The oddest thing about it was definitely the whistling shiny dog-stick part.

But there is still something to be said about privacy. I have said before that privacy has no point. It is merely an uncomfortable reminder that you are not a celebrity. It is a birthright we are quickly flinging away in exchange for the watery pottage of celebrity. Most of us are lucky enough to be born in total obscurity, out of which we then spend the rest of our lives benightedly trying to crawl.

So we are constantly frustrated by the tendency of celebrities to complain that we are staring at them. “Yes,” we say. “That is the point, and if you cannot stand the heat, get out from under the spotlight.”

Yet Jodie Foster came out at the Golden Globes as — an intensely private person. Is that something you can come out as? Or is it something you “go in” as? Is that an option? I wish we’d reached the point where thanking the other parent of your children did not fall into the category of Bold Newsworthy Statements. But no. Unfortunately we still live in a time where Hugh Jackman’s ecstatically thanking his wife does not count as a Bold Empowering Statement, but Jodie Foster cannot cryptically call herself single without a flurry of people on both sides saying she has said something far too brave/not brave enough.

But to be openly private — that’s a rare and persecuted minority indeed. The meek may inherit the earth, but they won’t get any reality series options. The oversharers overrun everything. This is Hollywood, after all.

Is insisting on privacy ever as bold a statement as sharing your life?

Maybe this is that point.

After all, this was the Golden Globes, which Hank Steuver astutely describes as “the award show our culture most deserves,” unified by the grand theme of Beautiful People Getting Inebriated in a Large Room Full of Glowing Helixes. You are supposed to be letting it all hang out. The desire to tuck it all back in is the most radical urge you can have. Perhaps that was why the speech was so stunning.

Keep something to yourself? Withdraw? That’s selfish. Not make a big stir? That’s unheard-of. You can do and be whatever you want, but only as long as you’ve brought enough to share with the class. Even Honey Boo Boo Child knows that.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.