Who is Jane Fonda? This is a question often asked by many people with no one right answer. She is an actress, a fitness guru, a former communist sympathizer, and most importantly, an antiwar activist during the Vietnam War. Although Jane Fonda was honored as one of the “100 Women of the Century”, her infamous name is one Vietnam veterans will never forget. As American soldiers were losing their lives, she traveled into enemy-territory, defaming American POWs, many of whom were tortured to death. Jane Fonda, a revolutionary woman whose efforts not only demoralized American servicemen but also created a personal war that would last a lifetime, mixed politics with film to make her an infamous legend.
Born into a family of wealth, Jane Fonda evolved from a distinguished actress to one of the most controversial figures in Hollywood. Descending from prominent figures in history, including Samuel Adams and Jane Seymour, Fonda grew up with very little parental love and attention. Her father, actor Henry Fonda, rarely saw his daughter except for the occasional publicity photo-shoot. Her brother, Peter Fonda, and Jane spent most of their childhood at numerous boarding schools. “The beginnings of Fonda’s passion for communism can be ascribed to her early boarding school in Paris, where she befriended French communists and Vietcong representatives assigned in Paris” (Mraffin 1). Back in the United States, Jane made numerous theatrical appearances with her father. Developing her own fame, Jane began to take on numerous risque films, her most famous being Barbarella. Tired of her sex kitten roles and appearance, Jane took on a more serious role, titled They Shoot Horses Don’t They? and also developed an interest in politics. Jane watched “women leading marches, women getting beaten up, women walking up to bayonets, and they were not afraid. That experience completely changed her, and it began her searching for what was behind it all” (Andersen 171).
March 8,1970, marked Jane’s first entry into the world of militant protest. Jane, a strong advocate of “Coffee houses”, or hangouts where servicemen could get a taste of antiwar propaganda and some coffee, was also drawn to the Black Panthers, the feminist movement, the plight of the American Indian, welfare mothers, and the farm movement. Jane decided that “because of the success of my films, I have more power-and I intend to use it” (Andersen 169) and the best way to tackle all these issues was by way of a cross country tour. Using her acting fame, Jane obtained appearances on TV talk shows, and became a feature speaker at numerous college campuses, leading countless anti-war demonstrations. Her speeches could be summarized by her statement on November 22, 1970: “I would think if you understood what communism was, you would pray on your knees that you would someday become Communists” (Mraffin 1). While traveling across country, Jane dropped in on Indian reservations, army bases, and G.I. coffeehouses, hoping to convert nonbelievers. Whenever Jane spoke at a Coffeehouse, she was speaking to the converted–mostly disillusioned draftees, rearing no more then a few thousand spread across the country, a small fraction of the nations fighting force (Andersen…). Within time though, Jane’s interest in everything but the Vietnam war diminished.
No longer content with spreading her radicalism within the home ranks, Fonda decided to trade her glamorous attire in for a pair of Ho Chi Minh sandals, and Vietcong pajamas. She left for her two week stay in North Vietnam on July 8, 1972. Jane, with several cameras slung around her neck, was led on a tour…