There's no place for bitterness at award shows, so I'm letting mine out now
I have room in my brain for only one adjective per celebrity. Angelina Jolie is hot; Russell Crowe is angry; James Franco is overcommitted; Ryan Seacrest is nearby. This rule also applies to noncelebrities. My lovely wife Cassandra is lovely.
My adjective for Jodie Foster was smart. Apparently, Foster wanted me to have many, many more opinions of her. Accepting her lifetime-achievement award at the Golden Globes, she made a slightly hostile speech in which she stated she valued "privacy above all else," mocking a culture in which "every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show." Then she continued her prime-time network-television speech by talking about being single, her ex-partner, her friendship with Mel Gibson, why she didn't come out publicly, her two kids, her mom's dementia and her temptation to quit acting. If she loved privacy any more, she would have flashed a nipple.
To be fair, I can imagine how hard all of that has been for her. I'm straight, and I still make the exact same angry "privacy above all else" speech whenever Cassandra uses my computer after I forget to click on "Clear history." And I'm sure Foster feels some anger about being made to feel guilty for not coming out at the height of the gay-rights movement. Though really, the only thing a person needs to be private about in the 21st century is a friendship with Mel Gibson.
But I fear that Foster has set a precedent and that people will now see a lifetime-achievement award as an opportunity to unload all their resentments and frustrations. And I've been to enough Time "retirement" celebrations to know how likely this is. I'm worried about George Clooney crying and saying all he wanted was 2.4 kids, a white picket fence and someone to hold him tight as he watched The Bachelor. About Tom Hanks admitting that he dislikes something. About Bill Murray emoting.
I don't want this to happen when I receive my Dave Barry lifetime-achievement award at the Penis Jokes in Print Awards. For advice, I called James Lipton, the host of Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio and recipient of 2007's Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award. "Speak from the heart," he told me. "You're not there to impress anyone. They're already impressed." He said I should start with "Thank you" and then, without bragging, explain how I got to the stage, just like actors do on Lipton's show. Which, he reminded me, is entering its 19th season of serving the students of the Actors Studio Drama School, of which Lipton is the founder and dean emeritus. Bragging, I realized, means something different to performers than to the rest of us.
After the thanking, I asked, I get to rip into people who screwed me, right? "That would absolutely be the worst thing. It's not a moment for gloating. Certainly not a dance in the end zone," he said. Can I at least rail against the shallowness of society to make myself seem deep? "That's not the subject of the evening. You're not there to discuss the National Football League, either." If there is one thing you should not discuss at the Golden Globes, it's the National Football League.
I would never question the wisdom of Lipton--who as a child, he told me, was a debater and an oratory champion--which is why I'm going to release all my bitterness now. First, I'm upset that I don't have a prime-time reality show, press conferences or a fragrance that exists outside my own house. I'm also angry that I work in a backward age when political discourse is still considered more important than writing about yourself, even when yourself is me and political discourse is about minting a trillion-dollar coin. And I'm mad that I got to be seen on television by millions of attractive women only after I met Cassandra. I would also like to thank Cassandra for this award.
So now I'll be able to accept my award the way I should: with false gratitude to a room of competitors and sad acceptance that penis jokes have all gone digital. And with my version of the only good part of Foster's speech: when she dramatically said she was quitting acting and then told reporters backstage that it's weird they thought she was quitting acting because she's totally not quitting acting. I, by the way, will totally not quit telling penis jokes.
Foster did reveal a larger truth at the end of her speech: the tension between wanting to be left alone and wanting to be known. "I want to be seen, to be understood deeply and to be not so very lonely," she said. We all want that. Most of us, however, don't want it so badly we're willing to hang out with Mel Gibson.