A Life in the Spotlight

Jane Fonda

At UCSB’s Campbell Hall, Monday, May 1.

Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko

Even though last Monday was a day of protest, Campbell Hall was still filled with people holding Jane Fonda’s newly published autobiography, My Life So Far, balanced on their laps. Fonda walked on stage to rumbling applause; she was followed by her small white dog, Thulia, who is keeping Fonda company while on tour.

Arriving in Santa Barbara, Fonda was on familiar land, since the Laurel Springs Camp in Painted Cave was a summer haunt of her family and friends for 15 years. Fonda began the evening’s spirited talk by reminiscing about the kids who came to camp — including a group of tough boys whose notions of manhood and bravery were altered by spending the summer with a young boy who couldn’t walk, but found satisfaction negotiating the swimming pool.

Fonda also commented on another meaningful encounter when Lulu, a young girl she later adopted, said that the camp represented the first time in her life that she met people who thought about the future. “It was a transformative statement,” said Fonda. “People who think about the future don’t engage in risky behavior.”

Throughout, Fonda talked about her lifetime of activism and mentioned people in the audience, including the about-to-retire Professor Dick Flacks. She spurred on the audience, announcing to applause that what is needed in our society today is to put the pressure for change on the government rather than focus on the name or party in office.

Ranging from the political to the personal, Fonda reflected on her choices and her relationships, telling the story of how she realized at age 60, entering the third act of her life, that she had never really had an intimate relationship. She described this as the situation where two whole, actualized people care for each other without leaving their selves behind. Embracing the self was a theme she revisited frequently, also in the context of how kids are socialized, which takes “aim at girls’ voices and takes aim at boys’ hearts.”

Fonda felt she was reclaiming her voice and heart, and exhorted the audience to do the same with themselves and their children, as she said so much is now at stake. “We have never had real radicals running the country.” But Fonda insisted there is a solution, personally as well as politically. “If the planet is going to survive, women have to lead the way, not because we are morally superior, but because we don’t have our manhood to prove.”

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