Tuesday 7 December 2010
The regrets of Hanoi Jane
There was an interview with Jane Fonda, the daughter of the late Henry Fonda the actor and herself an actor, in one of the glossy Sunday supplements, introducing itself with a picture of her on the front cover. There she is, a seventy-two year old woman, certainly with a reasonable figure, bending over and reaching out to touch her toes as she turns smiling towards the camera, obviously the result of her endless workout routines, allowing her to retain a high degree of suppleness. Indeed, there she is, just below a text saying, You'd be smiling too if you could do this as 72 (and this is just the warm-up). What does she do for a second act, I wonder? Keep reading; you will find out presently.
There are more pictures of her inside, including one closer to her face. The hair is obviously dyed and she has clearly had as many facelifts as some people have breakfasts. She certainly looks younger than her years but this is not youth; this is a grotesque parody of youth, this unnatural, stiff face, devoid of the signals that give people life, expression and feeling. In a bogus search for something beyond her she has lost all dignity, including the dignity of age, the grace of change. She looks good in the way that a three thousand year old Egyptian mummy looks good. But the same picture also shows her hands, the real give away, the hands of a woman in her seventies. Presumably it's beyond the power of even the most skilled cosmetic surgeon to do anything about this, to alter the true signs of advancing time.
She is just a sad old woman trying so hard not to look like a sad old woman. Oh, what a catty thing to say. I simply can't help myself. I'm not particularly interested in Jane Fonda, or so much of the celebrity ephemera that appears in the supplements. I simply glance through them, usually never reading the articles in question. Fonda, along with so many others of the Hollywood set, can spend as much money as they wish looking for eternal youth. But there was one other picture that made me pause and take this unserious person seriously. It was a picture of her in Hanoi in 1972 during the Vietnam War, a picture of her posing by the side of a manned anti-aircraft gun, sitting, looking as if she is taking part in the action. There she is - Hanoi Jane.
I simply do not comprehend treason, comprehend those who side with foreign powers and foreign ideologies. Fonda thought the Vietnam War was wrong. I do, too; I believe it was a noble cause fought for the wrong reasons, based on a series of mistaken assumptions. If I had been American and alive at the time I might have argued against it, as I argued in my schooldays against the Second Iraq War, but I would never, no matter what, have taken the Baghdad Step, or the Hanoi Step, in the case of Jane. I could never do or say anything that would go against the fundamental interests of my country.
Not so Jane. When she went to Hanoi she denounced the leaders of the United States as 'war criminals.' Then came that infamous pose, looking as if she was helping shoot down American planes. This is no naive youth; she was in her early thirties at the time. She was asked in the interview if she regretted anything in her life. The stock response came immediately;
I regret one thing: I regret sitting on an anti-aircraft gun and I will go to my grave regretting that...I take responsibility for my actions. I wasn't thinking. Going to North Vietnam was no big deal, but being photographed like that changed everything. I will pay for it for the rest of my life and deservedly so because it was a terrible thing. Terrible thing.
I suppose I should commend her for her honesty but I can see only the treason and only the traitor. There are some things that are simply beyond forgiveness. After all these years she has still not been forgiven by some, those who also went to Vietnam, though under less luxurious circumstances. During a recent book tour Fonda was spat upon by one of those people, one of those little people, one of the people presumably whose scars are more than skin deep. I can understand because I have met people in Georgia, men who went to Vietnam as boys, much younger than me now, who were spat upon on their less than glorious return, accused of being 'baby killers'.
But Jane regrets, at least some things she regrets, regrets, I suspect, the negative impact this had on her career. Some things, I say, because she does not regret broadcasting on Radio Hanoi. Tokyo Rose or Hanoi Jane, what’s the difference? Treachery always seems to have the same face, no matter how tight the skin is pulled.