Monday, April 29, 2013

Boston Strong

It's been a difficult and emotional time here in Boston recently.  I've watched the Boston Marathon all my life, sometimes on Boylston Street near the finish line, sometimes on TV, sometimes in Kenmore Square, once in Wellesley.  And the race always makes me cry a little because of the beauty of the human spirit — not just because of the spectacular achievement of the elite athletes, but also because of what ordinary people accomplish on that day.  Of course I cried while watching this year's race, too.  And then came the lockdown, the helicopters overhead, the police search.  I'm so proud of the city's capable, brave, and loving response to the tragedy. That is the meaning of Boston Strong.  Many victims have a long road ahead.  The best way to help is to donate to The One Fund.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Jodie Foster came out – why it matters so much

Photo attribution: Tom Sorensen.
It happened a few months ago, and you would be mistaken to think not much has changed since Jodie Foster finally and unequivocally came out at the Golden Globes in January 2013. Some folks the next day were still wondering if she actually had indeed come out, but the Guardian said it best: You'd have to be "willfully obtuse" to doubt it.  She came out.  And everyone was talking about it the next day. And by everyone, I mean actually everyone. A cross-section of society. Not just the lesbians. Not the way "everyone" was talking about the poolside rendezvous between Sherry Jaffe and Shane.  Jodie's declaration was news around the world. It was talked about by our moms and our colleagues and on the front page of The New York Times.

Jodie Foster was certainly not the first famous person to come out as gay or lesbian.  But her coming out was the biggest, and, I would argue, the most important, and here's why: She's part of our collective American culture — from her childhood movie roles, to the Reagan assassination attempt, to her multiple Academy Awards — and the public cares about her.  An example: A few years ago, in my classroom of college freshmen, I mentioned the legendary actress Meryl Streep. None of the young men in the room knew who she was.  They didn't know Meryl Streep.  They don't watch her movies.  Jodie Foster, they know. They've all seen "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Panic Room."  Jodie's coming out was like having the entire country personally know someone who came out.

But that's not the only reason it was such a big deal. There's something else.  Jodie is not a goofy and lovable comedian like Jane Lynch or Ellen. She is not an egghead intellectual stud like Rachel Maddow.  She's not Chaz Bono.  No, she is one of the cool kids in the upper stratosphere of beauty and status. At least, this is how the straight world perceives her.  She's someone who straight women might aspire to be and straight men might desire. We may have several examples of conventionally desirable, successful lesbians in pop culture, but they are usually fictional characters played by straight actors.  Jodie Foster, on the other hand, is real.  She's beautiful. She's mega-famous. And she's gay -- and now everyone knows.