WaPo on Jane Fonda: It's just acting, folks

Ordinarily, I’d be thrilled with someone letting a little air out of an overinflated industry. How refreshing to read a culture columnist put into perspective what Hollywood elites do all day! They act. Oh, but it’s “brave” of them to take on a role that’s bound to earn them critical acclaim! It’s “noble” of them to portray a character with whom they don’t personally identify! It’s “breathtaking” when they recite lines amidst special effects that would make anyone look dramatic!

In this case, though, Suzi Parker’s reminder that “It’s just acting” isn’t aimed to adjust the attitudes of a self-indulgent microsociety. Parker writes:

As Fonda has matured, she looks a tad more like the former first lady with her caramel hair and chiseled features. The wardrobe department will certainly work its magic fitting her in Nancy red. We may even forget that Nancy is Jane in the handful of scenes that feature her.

Acting is just that – acting. If anyone should know that, it’s Nancy Reagan who, after all, met her beloved Ronnie in glitzy Hollywood when they were both actors.

Her words are clearly aimed to invalidate criticism of a director’s choice of actress to portray Nancy Reagan. Should Jane Fonda’s traitorous personal past disqualify her from acting the part of a loyal First Lady? Not necessarily.

But is it valid to criticize her selection even from an artistic standpoint? Absolutely. An actress is essentially a medium. The character she takes on as her own should come through her. In this case, Fonda’s very public and apparent leftism might very well render her an opaque medium through which it’s impossible for the essence of Nancy Reagan to appear. Note that even Parker only goes so far as to say we may forget that it’s Jane playing Nancy. If she were truly right for the part, we would forget it.

That’s why I’ve always marveled at the apparent eagerness of some actors and actresses eagerness to disclose their political affiliation. It renders their job infinitely harder because they have to overcome audience bias to be convincing in some roles.

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