More Than "A Cup of Ambition": Hollywood Icon and Activist Jane Fonda Is Fighting "9 to 5" for Our Planet’s Future
In the HBO documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts (2018), the Oscar-winning actor, fitness tycoon and activist says in an interview from the ‘70s, "Any healthy country, like any healthy individual, should be in perpetual revolution." Although Fonda, now 82 years old, acknowledges that she’s made some mistakes over the course of her life, she doesn’t believe her commitment to activism is one of them. In fact, speaking out and taking action is a source of pride. "I never felt real," Fonda says in the documentary’s narration. "I wanted my life to have meaning."
That meaning came to her in the late 1960s while she was living in France and becoming increasingly aware of Civil Rights demonstrations and anti-war protests in the U.S. Instead of living comfortably an ocean away, Fonda returned to the States and committed herself to activism, despite the toll her actions might have had on her blossoming career as an actor — and despite the fact that she was often in opposition to her famous father, Henry Fonda.
In the 1970s, Fonda became the target of government surveillance: She campaigned on behalf of revolutionary Black activists, such as Angela Davis, and held fundraisers for the Black Panthers in her home. In 1971, Fonda visited Davis in prison in San Rafael, California and, according to The New York Times, spoke to the revolutionary leader about "everyone joining forces to stop repression in this country and abroad." Needless to say, Fonda was open to listening, learning and finding a lane in which she could be most productive.
“To be a revolutionary… You have to care about people who have no power.”
Before Fonda became synonymous with the movement to end the war in Vietnam, she threw her support behind other causes stateside as well. When Indigenous activist Bernie Whitebear led a group of Native folks to occupy Seattle, Washington’s, Fort Lawton, Fonda showed up, lending her platform to Whitebear in order to help him attain rights and land for the Seattle area’s Indigenous peoples. During this time, she also stood in solidarity with Native protesters who, under the leadership of Mohawk college student Richard Oaks, occupied Alcatraz Island, the site of San Francisco’s infamous prison in the bay. The 19-month occupation of the island galvanized activists, leading to demonstrations at other sites emblematic of colonialism and white supremacy, like Plymouth Rock and Mount Rushmore.
“It’s much more important to stay interested than to be interesting.”
These days, when the now 82-year-old Fonda isn’t filming a new season of the long-running Netflix hit Grace & Frankie with her lifelong pal and fellow activist Lily Tomlin, she’s still protesting and speaking out against injustices. In fact, she never stopped. Although the ‘70s and early ‘80s may have been seen as the height of Fonda’s activism, she has also demonstrated with Women in Black against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; protested the Iraq War; and spoke out against President Obama’s anti-environmentalist Arctic drilling policy. And those are just a few highlights.