Jodie Foster is an esteemed, well-respected and critically-lauded actress and director. Part of the reason she is respected by the public at large is that she keeps her personal life very private. In a time when celebrities share everything on social media from the professional, like on-set photos, to the personal, like their disheveled selves in the morning, Foster is an exception.
I’m a big fan of Jodie Foster. When I was growing up, she was the rare film actress that seemed to disdain her good looks in favor of what she could do with her brain. Even rarer was the fact that others in Hollywood responded well to her attitude.
However, I’m not a fan of her recent comments about superhero movies. It’s well-known that I’m a superhero fan(atic). I wrote for Comic Book Resources and I write about superhero movies and TV shows for Media Medusa. It should not be a surprise, then, that I think her comments are arrogant and elitist.
What She Said
When it comes to watching superhero movies, Foster told the British Radio Times, “It’s ruining the viewing habits of the American population and then ultimately the rest of the world.” Wow. That is an extreme opinion about something that’s terribly popular. Sadly, her statement makes her seem out of touch with the general public. Plus, I think she’s dead wrong.
First, watching superhero movies isn’t “ruining the viewing habits” of anyone.
I can appreciate the fantastic stunts of Captain America: Civil War at the same time I can marvel at Aziz Ansari’s subtle, deft portrayal of an immigrant’s son living in New York in Master of None. Just because I’m first in line at the latest superhero flick doesn’t mean I’m not also champing at the bit to see The Big Sick. In fact, Jodie Foster is being rather condescending when she assumes that these habits are mutually exclusive. I’m reminded of Hermione’s comment to Ron in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, “Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.”
Second, I submit that the current slate of superhero movies are much more sophisticated than she assumes.
(I’m assuming she hasn’t seen them, else why would she be so judgmental?) Can you compare Wonder Woman to, let’s say, 1984’s Supergirl? Not even close. There’s still plenty of goofy humor in the current crop of DC and Marvel movies, but there’s also a lot of serious exploration of the human condition. Heady themes are explored, like love and loss, loyalty and betrayal, even the occasional existential crisis. How dare she assume that superhero movies are mindless entertainment that’s turning us all into dolts?
Third, so what?
So what if, at this time, I have enough tension, stress and drama in my day-to-day life that I don’t want to sit through two hours of some character’s or culture’s breakdown? I want to be taken away! I want to imagine a world where kids trot off to magic school when they turn 11. I want to picture myself beating the crap out of all the bad things that happen in this world. I want to watch people who are brave, who dig down and find the best in themselves, who work as a team, and get the happy ending. Because, dammit, right now, I need to believe that’s possible! The last thing I want to watch is someone quietly falling apart in front of their friends and family. I’m doing enough of that on my own, thank you very much, Jodie Foster.
Fourth, tentpole movies of any kind — whether they’re superhero movies, Broadway musicals adapted for the big screen, or sci fi epics — aren’t hurting small, independent dramas and comedies in any way.
If anything, the influx of cash that these kinds of movies bring in helps fund the kind of movies she likes to direct. If Warner Bros. didn’t put out another Fantastic Beasts or another Wonder Woman, they wouldn’t be able to fund a smaller movie like Game Night (which is being released by New Line Cinema, which is owned by Warner Bros.). Studios still make art movies, but they’re willing to take a loss in profits in the hopes that they win awards. Without tentpole movies, those Oscar-bait films wouldn’t get made.
And finally, the world’s viewing habits aren’t the same as they were even 10 years ago, and it has nothing to do with superhero movies.
It has to do with the internet, and streaming services, and on-demand services, etc. Poor Jodie Foster is making herself look like an old woman who complains about “these kids today.” Superhero movies or not, I can enjoy an independent drama in my very own living room any time I want. Heck, I can watch one on my phone in bed! She should be rejoicing that our viewing habits are so different compared to decades ago, because with so many media outlets available to movie fans, filmmakers have a much better chance of seeing their pet projects come to fruition. Maybe those movies won’t be on the big screen, but they’ll be available for download or streaming, or picked up by a digital distribution company. All these digital media outlets give studios a much better chance at turning a buck, which means they’ll be willing to gamble on small movies. That’s good news for people like her.
It’s sad to see an intelligent person, who is a member of two groups of people who suffer from bias — women and the LGBT community — be so judgmental of superhero movie makers and fans. She must not realize she’s biting the hand that feeds her.
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Header photo: Loren Javier on Flickr