Brie Larson got real on patriarchy, Hollywood activism, and sexual abuse in an eye-opening interview with Jane Fonda
It’s officially Women’s History Month, which means we have great news and bad news. The great news is, woke queen Brie Larson just interviewed Jane Fonda about feminism for Net-a-Porter, and it’s about as fantastic as you might expect.
The bad news is the interview will undoubtedly receive criticism from naysayers, as always happens when interesting people speak their minds. But we can deal with a few annoying tweets if Women’s History Month gives us more eye-opening conversations like the one between Larson and Fonda.
The interview begins with Larson asking Fonda about when she began identifying as a feminist. Fonda admitted that, thanks to her ’50s upbringing, it took her a long time to begin using the word…even though she had plenty of reasons to embrace the concept.
“To show you the extent to which a patriarchy takes a toll on females; I’ve been raped, I’ve been sexually abused as a child and I’ve been fired because I wouldn’t sleep with my boss and I always thought it was my fault; that I didn’t do or say the right thing,” Fonda explained.
To this, Larson replied with a statement that seemingly explains why she famously did not clap for Casey Affleck — who has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment; allegations he vehemently denies — when he won both his Golden Globe and his Oscar for Manchester by the Sea.
“Having played two characters who were sexually abused, I’ve done a lot of work with victims of sexual abuse,” Larson said.
We can’t take any steps backward in allowing people to think abuse is their fault. It’s the people-pleaser disease."
Larson also admitted to Fonda that she’s received some “backlash” on social media for her recent politically-motivated posts, as many people out there seem to think celebrities should keep their opinions to themselves.
“It can get wild out there when you start speaking up, especially on social media,” Larson explained. “I’ve been getting a lot of backlash recently. People say I’m an ‘elite;’ that I don’t know what I’m talking about. When so many people tell you that, it’s easy to start believing it.”
Fonda’s anti-Vietnam War activism, of course, was an extreme rarity — and a potential career-killer — back in the ’70s. Larson thanked her for paving the way for future celebrities to speak out without fear, noting that “now [celebrities] don’t speak from the backseat because we’re afraid we’re going to lose our career.”
“I’d put it all on the line and be an activist for the rest of my life because it doesn’t feel right to me to be quiet,” Larson continued.
Larson also asked Fonda for her thoughts on how female sexuality is portrayed onscreen now versus back in Fonda’s heyday. Fonda admitted that she thinks there is “even more emphasis on how you look” now versus back in the ’60s and ’70s, and Larson was quick to agree, saying,
Female sexuality was confusing for me. I went to auditions where they wanted a sassy, smart, sexy girl. I would arrive in sneakers and they’d say, 'Come back in a mini-skirt and heels.' I would come back and blow the audition. I felt more in my body when I wasn’t dressing as a fantasy for the male gaze."
“The first time I got a spread in a fashion magazine there was a one-off piece of clothing from the runway,” Larson continued. “I asked, ‘Can you only be in magazines if you’re the size of this one piece?’ There was this silence. Men get custom suits or shirts made to fit, but as women, if you don’t fit into that sample you bump up against an aspect of your career you can never blossom into.
We’d all love to get out of this cycle of abuse where our mental weight is based on our body weight."
Both in Hollywood and in everyday life, Fonda and Larson’s words are important and true. We’re glad that Larson is able to stand up for her beliefs without fear of punishment from her industry, as so many outspoken actresses were in years past. And we’re also so, so grateful that both Larson and Fonda are willing and eager to discuss nuanced issues of feminism and patriarchy in America. We could use more like them.