Though I'm late to this discussion -- damn that day job! -- I'm curious how many of you read Jodie Foster's piece at The Daily Beast on the pressures of stardom and her feelings about the current Kristen Stewart media witch hunt? I am, by no stretch of anyone's definition, a fan of Kristen Stewart's but I agree that the treatment she's getting in the press is hideous. While it's not directly comparable the obvious sexism of the whole thing reminds me of the Janet Jackson / Justin Timberlake "wardrobe malfunction" fiasco. The woman is blamed and the man in the equation emerges unscathed -- in this case the Snow White and the Huntsman director keeping his sequel job while the actress loses hers. Men we are free to "tsk tsk" for a couple of seconds before they get back to work but... women? Women have to serve time as Human Dartboards of Shame before they are publicly allowed to yank the Scarlet "A" from their garments and go on living.
Foster has a right to defend her former co-star and I'm glad she did and with so much spirit, too. But does this mean we have to start reinterpreting Panic Room (2002) as a metaphor of the insaitable media mob vs the trapped movie star? Damnit, I hadn't thought of that...
Foster's well written opinion piece and semi-memoir, is a fine catch for The Daily Beast even if the actress arguably takes herself a smidge too seriously, threateningly to retroactively withdraw her signature characters from us. All in all, it's quite a good read. But I can't help but call Our Ms Foster to task for one particular comment. In this day and age of robust discussion of economic disparity in which an out of touch billionaire who pays less taxes than you is running for president, I must vehemently object to this part:
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."
-Jodie Foster in 2012
Oh, Jodie... Actually to set the record straight, it does.
Do the amazingly wealthy and fortunate, like Foster herself, not realize that the average person's sense of self is regularly challenged from the outside? It can seem impossible to maintain your sense of self when the wolves come but EVERYONE, no matter their circumstance, faces this challenge; Maids, garbage handlers, librarians, hamburger slingers, chorus line kick girls, middle managers, accountants, bouncers, human resources personnel (that's what I do when I'm not writing), and EVERYONE who has to work for a living faces regular threats to their sense of self. The only people who escape this are people who are 100% autonomous in their work and who are completely okay with their paycheck job wholly defining them. And how many people fit that description?
Do the amazingly wealthy and fortunate, like Foster herself, not realize that the average citizen has to give up A LOT for whatever pittance they are given in return. True, they aren't asked to give up their privacy to the extent that celebrities are, but they sacrifice plenty. Each regular person job has its own mandated sacrifices -- usually Time, a sacrifice that the famous rarely have to make -- and though it may be unpopular to say, isn't Privacy the single most-defining mandated sacrifice of stardom?
I think everyone with a little perspective understands that the enormous salaries movie stars can command for only a few weeks work (remember Kristen Stewart made $34.5 million last year which is more than most of us will earn in a lifetime) are not paid to them for simply "giving an on-screen performance" as Foster states. The obscene salaries are in fact mortgage payments on Stardom. The crushing stacks of money can then be used to restore some Sacrificed Privacy equilibrium in the form of bodyguards, impenetrably secure mansions, private jets, plenty of time to oneself in luxurious remote locales, and so on...
This reminds me of a favorite quote of mine from Michelle Pfeiffer, one of Foster's contemporaries who shares her distaste for being a "celebrity". Pfeiffer's fame came in her mid twenties which possibly alloted her more perspective on the matter than child star Foster, who has no recollection of not being famous. Pfeiffer worked in all sorts of humble regular people jobs (most famously as a grocery store checkout girl) before fame hit. At the peak of her career when she and Foster were both regularly pulling down 8 figures for "giving an onscreen performance," Pfeiffer did her own setting the record straight with Esquire Magazine...
I act for free, but I demand a huge salary as compensation for all the annoyance of being a public personality. In that sense, I earn every dime I make."
-Michelle Pfeiffer in 1990