Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Jane Fonda’s Life So Far: Let me Save you Five Hundred and Seventy-Nine Pages

Or Not.

Upon completion of Jane’s book (thanks for lending it to me, Leslie), I felt compelled to speak with that means she did a good job of being basically candid. It seemed like she was in my living room and so after listening to her go on for forty-two chapters and an epilogue, I thought we should get together and talk.

But let’s face it. I'm quite busy and Jane and I are never going to be close.

But since her book read so candidly I applaud her and I must chide, “Jump on another antiaircraft gun, baby, and sing us another one.” And while we wait for more possible books, let me tell you a bit about this one.

Quick synopsis: She’s born into Hollywood royalty, her mother kills herself, she goes to fancy schools, becomes anorexic, falls into a film career, studies acting, marries Vadim, moves to Paris, has all sorts of three-ways, keeps puking, has a baby girl, gets involved with the anti-war movement, has a bad day as Hanoi Jane, makes a load of movies, hooks up with Tom Hayden, keeps puking, has another baby--a boy, makes all those exercise videos to support Tom, then makes them to make money, stops the puking, divorces Tom, hooks up with wacky Ted Turner, becomes a trophy wife, gets frustrated with that, doesn’t puke, divorces the guy and turns into a loosely defined Christian. During all this, she does all sorts of charitable things, mostly to empower poor people and women. You might also recall a few of her movies.

Throughout, she’s as serious as an aortic shunt and maybe even half as helpful. The only chapter that had any real humor was about the filming of On Golden Pond...and Katherine Hepburn had all the jokes.
If you saw her on Bill Maher, and you witnessed her earnestness, I would say this book had that same tone. Of course, she wasn't put on this earth to make me laugh. But with so little humor, you have to wonder how much fun she would be to film, fuck or befriend. So, I was tempted many times to stop reading her huge tome.

Yet, I couldn’t put the shit down. I think it’s because Jane, more than anything else, had amazing star instincts. She was always right at the center of the state of the culture. She just had to be where the action was...whether that meant going to Vietnam, jumping up and down to bad Eighties music, becoming a corporate queen and even joining the Christian lunacy of today. And in between all this, she starred in forty-one movies. I can’t believe she had time to eat, never mind all that time to puke.

But still, in addition to its humorless tone, I have three more beefs with Jane’s book.

First of all, if you read just slightly between the lines, you can tell that she’s a bit of a lesbian. She had lots of three ways with lots of women and whenever things would go wrong with men, she would run to her “women friends.” Seems to me like she has enjoyed much of what Sappho had to offer and you just want her to come clean about all of her eating habits.

Second of all, she has that annoying new age quality of believing that coincidences are the divine proof that there is a watchful God. For me, this wreaks of a second rate understanding of what her privilege and access brought to her on this earth.

And third of all, she has a biased understanding of the failings in human relations. If someone wrongs her, she has pat, though gracious, admonishments to say about her assailants, be them lovers, friends or Hollywood peers. She is gracious, because she does understand that societies form people, even the people she hobnobs with. She further understands that Western Culture is out of balance, patriarchal and greedy. So she cuts people a break, but doesn't really let them off the hook. But more generously, when she does acknowledge her own wrongdoings, she plays the undeveloped, naïve victim on her journey through life in this patriarchal society. She develops all relational scripts in her favor. Well, I guess she’s the star of her life movie, right?

At the end of the day, I feel really bad for someone who loses a parent to suicide. And puking is hard on the teeth. So, her life had to sort of suck. And if the palliative was to just sort of fall into becoming a movie star, why the hell not, right? And if you are very beautiful with a really cool, kind of dykie/upper crust speaking voice, and you are smart and brave enough to learn how to act well, and you are loaded with earnest, good intentions it would be almost impossible to not become the Where’s Waldo of the twentieth century. So, it was kind of a perfect coincidence of events that put her there. Oh wait, it was God, right? Must have been.

So Jane, in the autumn of your life, go have a good run with Jesus. Know that many before you, in their golden years, have sought the solace of the savior. Of course, I'm being snarky, but yet, sort of not.

Also know that I never really quite bought you as that whore in Klute, but then again, I was only nine years old and the only whore I had to compare you to was the next door neighbor on my hard bitten blue collar street.

Jane, congratulations. You wrote a big book.
Amazon Jane


Dan said...

Great review. It's inspired me to go eat a Vietnamese lunch and puke it up.

HelenBach said...

I feel like the circle of three but great review, I say, too.
Question: where the heck did you learn the word palliative? It's awesome.

Don Cummings said...

At the beach?

Anonymous said...

I had to look up "aortic shunt"!!