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Jewish World Review June 26, 2000 / 23 Sivan, 5760

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Consumer Reports

Has Jane Fonda changed? --
THE HEADLINES were alluring: "Jane Fonda regrets posing with Vietcong." Combined with the recent rumors that she had separated from Ted Turner because of her recent conversion to Christianity, it looked promising. I promptly purchased the new Oprah magazine to get a more complete picture.

A more concentrated dose of claptrap and psychobabble is difficult to imagine. Page after interminable page of exclamations about the importance of "finding one's voice" and "showing up" in a relationship. But more about that in a moment. First, let's examine the "regret."

The headlines, it turns out, had pretty much the whole story. Here is the entire quotation regarding Fonda's role in Vietnam: "I will go to my grave regretting the photograph of me in antiaircraft carrier (sic), which looks like I was trying to shoot at American planes. That had nothing to do with the context that photograph was taken in. But it hurt so many soldiers. It galvanized such hostility. It was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done. It was just thoughtless. I wasn't thinking; I was just so bowled over by the whole experience that I didn't realize what it would look like."

One can imagine a hundred follow-up questions. "When you say 'bowled over,' was that by the Vietcong, by the attention of the world media or what?" "In light of the terrible persecutions perpetrated by the victorious communists in Vietnam; in light of the boat people and the genocide in Cambodia, do you now regret your role in providing propaganda to the communists?"

But, as you can probably guess, Oprah didn't ask any of those questions. It remains unclear whether Fonda regrets having done that photo only because she hurt the feelings of American soldiers. She does not hint at regrets about supporting one of the worst tyrannies of world history, betraying her country or playing the fool for our dedicated and serious enemies.


Oprah did ask about Fonda's reported conversion to Christianity. Fonda denies that she was converted by her black chauffeur but does confirm that she is now a Christian and that she attends a black church in Atlanta. As to the state of her soul, columnists should not presume to opine. But it is interesting to see just how completely tone deaf Oprah Winfrey is on the subject of politics and political motives.

At one point, Oprah asks Jane about her famous workout videos. She frames the question in terms of compulsion. Fonda, it seems, had traded in bulimia for exercise. But when asked about the videos, she frankly explains that her motive was to raise money for then-husband Tom Hayden's Campaign for Economic Democracy -- the CED actually owned the rights to the videos, which netted $17 million.

Fonda now says that she has mixed feelings about the tapes -- happy for those women who say it helped them, but worried about the implied message that thin is the only way to be. "But you helped so many women define their boundaries," Oprah protested, "and what you intended was for every woman to find herself."

"What I intended," Jane Fonda corrected her, "was to raise money for a political organization."

Don't permit that exchange to mislead you. Fonda is just as deeply sunk in self-help, New Age cliches as her questioner. And every other sentence seems to refer to her determination not to "lose her voice" again. Though this phrase crops up at least a dozen times, it is never defined, except by reference to the works Harvard's Carol Gilligan, the feminist guru who has persuaded a generation that adolescence destroys the spirits of young girls.

For a full discussion of Gilligan's flimsy research, see "The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men" by Christina Hoff Sommers.

Fonda imagines that she is now embarking on the "third act" of her life.

The first two featured, in addition to her vicious political activity, quite neurotic self-torture. "I lived on apple peels and crusts of bread for years" she confesses. And even then, apparently, she made herself throw up.

Along the path to her new "voice," she neglected one child and lost three husbands. It is hardly a life worthy of emulation in any way.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate