“Jodie Foster's 'coming out' speech at the Golden Globes was beautiful. And it wasn't just what she said, but the clever, elegant, way she used language, says Monique Harrisberg CEO of The Voice Clinic.
It's a considerable thing to deliver a speech that is at once artfully put together and emotionally affecting. At the Golden Globes, accepting the Cecil B DeMille award for lifetime achievement, she made the first public acknowledgement of her sexuality, Jodie Foster managed both. What's striking is not what the speech gave away, but the control and delicacy with which it delivered its payload.
The art of rhetoric is, at root, about the relationship between a speaker and an audience. Foster had just been given a gong, and her audience consisted of peers in the industry in which, as she said, she has worked with for 47 years. They didn't take much winning. They were on her side. They were paying attention.
She teased their expectations. First she offered a run of memories: "Executives, producers, the directors, my fellow actors out there, we've giggled through love scenes, we've punched and cried and spit and vomited and blown snot all over one another. " One of the strongest, most confident ethos
appeals you can make, and it's a brave one because the consequences of failure are high,- is to make a joke.
"So while I'm here being all confessional, I guess I have a sudden urge to say something that I've never really been able to air in public," she said. "Sudden urge," my foot. Every ear was bent. Was she about to say the thing everyone has been waiting for her to say for decades?
She teased it out. She appeared to hesitate. She affected to be nervous - and in so doing, of course, ratcheted up the levels both of tension and of attention. "But I'm just going to put it out there, right? Loud and proud, right? So I'm going to need your support on this. I am, ah," - beat pause - "single."
Big, nervous laugh from the audience. Then she circled around the topic: being frank about her sexuality without actually saying the words. She came out without actually coming out? In the course of this speech, Foster transitioned from not-out to already-out faster than a county cricketer facing Dale Steyn. That's her point: she already is out to everyone to whom it matters: "I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago ..." She's damned if she's going to "honour the details of [her] private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show".
There was a certain flintiness when she asked the audience to put itself in her shoes. "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 tricolon there, against all odds, then maybe you too might value privacy above all else."
Then, the open secret openly acknowledged, she was able to pay touching tribute to her ex-partner Cyd, their children and her mother. Those tributes were given more force by being addressed to their objects: we, the audience, were in the position of overhearing.
Finally. "I will continue to tell stories," she promised, "to move people by being moved, the greatest job in the world." That phrase - "to move people by being moved" - is a good one. It is also a fine description not only of the actor's job, but of the orator's. The Greek word for delivery, hypokrisis, is also the word for acting. The most effective display of emotion in a speech is one that appears to come from the heart. She was moved, and she in turn moved us.
Finally, she croaked out an endearingly Delphic announcement about the future. Her new talking stick may be less sparkly than the old one and may be directed only at dogs, she warned, and the writing will be on the wall. Is the writing on the wall for her? Or by her? Is she retiring? Opening a dog pound? Starting over as a graffiti writer? Whatever it is, she's planning to stop - "here's to the next 50 years" - in 2063. Let's rendezvous then.
Brilliant speech !