Ghost in the story of Ms. Fonda

Dear Caryn James,c/o The New York Times:

First, let me say that I really enjoyed your Critic's Notebook piece the other day titled "Where's Jane Fonda? On Yet Another Journey."

As you noted, Fonda was ahead of her time in filling the role of high-profile cultural Chameleon, the "mother of reinvention" who paved the way for Madonna and others. Clearly, she also blazed a trail for the likes of Susan Sarandon and others in the new Hollywood.

Thus, I agree with you that it's interesting the public perception of Fonda has changed so much, perhaps even out in the cultural wilderness of red-zip-code Middle America. As you noted about the aftermath of the flap about Fonda being edited into the John Kerry Vietnam-era protest photo:

. . . (A) month later a poll by the nonpartisan Annenberg Public Policy Center turned up some startling results. Asked to identify people mentioned during the campaign, 40 percent of the respondents thought of Ms. Fonda as an actress and only 20 percent as an antiwar activist. So much for her status as political poison.

And that softer image was no fluke. Less than two weeks ago, a poll measuring celebrities' appeal and recognition found that 62 percent actually liked Ms. Fonda, in varying degrees, while only 38 percent disliked her in some way. . . . What happened to the politically polarizing, instantly recognizable Jane Fonda?

This is a good question.

It is possible that some people learned to feel sympathy for her during and after her high-profile marriage to Ted "Mouth of the South" Turner. This moved her to Atlanta, of course, where she continues to live (for reasons that might be interesting to pursue on behalf of New York Times readers).

Anyway, Ms. Fonda is poised to return to the spotlight, with her My Life So Far autobiography, a date on 60 Minutes and her return to the screen, after 15 years, as "a woman who doesn't want her son to marry Jennifer Lopez's character, in the wide-release comedy 'Monster-in-Law.'" This last career move is the strange twist indeed.

But let me note, on behalf of GetReligion readers, that I believe your breezy Fonda update is, as we say in this space, "haunted." There is another twist in the Fonda story that you seem to have missed or avoided and, yes, this is a twist that made headlines. It may even have affected her image in Middle America.

If you are curious about this God-shaped hole in our story about Ms. Fonda, please click here. Or here. Or even here, in Salon of all places.

If you are looking for background music as you read through some of this material, let me suggest Bob Dylan's classic Saved.

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