"Make it better" is her mantra.

She has had a quite interesting journey in her life so far. A privileged and mostly ignored daughter of one of the most famous actors and a suicidal mother, she grew up not knowing herself. This is a tragic situation for an Idealist, for she hid her excessive Idealist’s guilt and naivety with eating disorders and marrying three times. But, she slowly kept trying to understand herself, as Idealists are wont to do, finally doing so after 60 years. One of the most intriguing parts of this search was it took the frantic and opulent life of Ted Turner, an extremely extroverted and peripatetic Artisan, to make her finally need to say *stop* — “slow down” and then take a good look at herself. It took her almost a lifetime to find her voice and calling: teaching women’s issues — teaching the stuff — Jane Fonda actually experienced and conquered — rather than the political knowledge that she naively tried to pass off as her own, using her fame, and Idealist credulity, as an activist in her younger, reluctant-phony, days.

Jane’s explaining of her relationships is especially revealing: one Idealist and two Artisan husbands. She shows some of the pitfalls of the Idealist-Artisan marriage, as well as some of the advantages. Her first husband, Roger Vadim, was the classic erratic Artisan male charmer. The young and naive American, Fonda was charmed by the sophisticated European for a couple of years. Her second husband, Tom Hayden, a political activist and an Idealist himself, seemed a better match and did last for a longer time. I do not get a very clear sense of why her and Tom’s marriage failed. Neither was articulate or interested, but more probably were incapable, in pinpointing the essential problem with the marriage. The fact that they are the same type, might have something to do with it. There isn’t much information from their accounts to make strong conclusions. On the other hand, her last husband, whom she eventually dumped, Ted Turner proved that charming Jane was possible despite them being an odd couple, showing that some Idealists can be quite charmed by Artisans. Lastly, she gives us an intriguing glimpse at her father, Henry Fonda — a greatest generation Idealist born into a very tactiturn midwest upbringing. Henry is a whole ‘nother story to be understood regarding Temperament. If the complicated interaction of Temperament and Environment does not intrigue you in Henry’s case, it never will.

Her autobiography, My Life So Far, is mostly honest and open, and is an articulate exposition of the interworking of a Teacher Idealist’s thoughts and feelings. Moreover, it gives us a panoramic view of both the political and social history of the last 50 years from her personal perspective — obviously colored from her point of view — but clearly honest and biased. It is one of the best autobiographies of a female Teacher Idealist I have found.

5 thoughts on “"Make it better" is her mantra.”

  1. This is great insight into a very interesting person. Your knowledge ‘fleshes’ things out and helps my understanding of myself and others. Thank you.

  2. She and Artisan actor Lee Marvin were never lovers, but in that very book she thanks him for teaching her something about standing up for the less powerful:

    Cat Ballou was a relatively low-budget undertaking. It seemed we’d never do two takes unless the camera broke down. The producers had us working overtime day after day, until one morning Lee Marvin took me aside. ‘Jane,’ he said, ‘we are the stars of this movie. If we let the producers walk all over us, if we don’t stand up for ourselves, you know who suffers most? The crew. The guys who don’t have the power we do to say, ‘Shit, no, we’re workin’ too hard.’ You have to get some backbone, girl. Learn to say no when they ask you to keep working.’ I will always remember Lee for that important lesson. At least I was learning to say no in my professional life.”

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