Outgrowing Men: Jane Fonda’s Rebuke of Male Hegemony in Life and Politics

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Susan Lacy, director and producer, discusses her latest documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts, touching on her estranged relationship with her famous actor father, her mother’s suicide,  and the efforts of men to mold her into their desired image and purpose.  Lacy states Jane “didn’t have those kinds of strong roots that you get from parents that are there for you, that support you…” and so she was molded by these men in her life, and she had to be the woman that they wanted her to be.  Scheer, a longtime friend of Fonda, disagrees suggesting that, “Jane was always a tough cookie… she always thought she could take these strong men and wrestle them to the ground.” Scheer also suggests that Jane “always had to reinvent herself, when she left these men” and that in reality, the film “is a tale of a woman’s liberation.”

The documentary film traces Fonda’s legendary journey from exploited sex goddess Barbarella and Best Actress Oscar winner for Klute  through her historic and bold antiwar activism, highlighted by the antiwar film Coming Home, and her hugely controversial trip to North Vietnam during the warFonda’s film career was shaped by her activism as well as the other way around, where Fonda used the power of celebrity to address social issues and withstood sometimes brutal criticism from those who disagreed with her positions. 

Scheer and Lacy discuss Fonda’s exercise videos premiering with Workout, “the biggest selling video in history,”  and how they were a healthier way to control her body than her long battle with bulimia.  Lacy and Scheer finish their conversation on Jane’s generosity and activism, with the proceeds of the videos went to the campaign for economic democracy, a movement co-founded with her then-husband, Tom Hayden, addressing income equality and other issues of economic justice.  She continues today to be an in-demand actress, an outspoken activist, and a highly respected and vital role model for young women.


Photo credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders / Courtesy of HBO.



Joshua Scheer