Why Do People Hate Jane Fonda? Her 'Hanoi Jane' Episode, Examined

By Kellar Ellsworth
Jane Fonda speaking in 1975. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 1972, actress Jane Fonda traveled to North Vietnam on an anti-war mission. Due to actions and images some people consider unpatriotic or treasonous, she earned herself the nickname "Hanoi Jane." Many Americans saw Fonda's actions as an unforgivable betrayal. Others defend her stance as free speech, youthful passion and indiscretion. We all believe in causes and, when we're young and reckless, we do things we might live to regret.

Fonda, the daughter of esteemed actor Henry Fonda, a sex symbol (thanks to Barbarella) and a recent Oscar winner, for Klute (1971), was among the most famous actors in Hollywood at the time. On her trip to Hanoi, she toured areas that had been bombed by American forces, visited American POWs, and met with North Vietnamese soldiers. She went on Radio Hanoi, the North Vietnamese propaganda station, and broadcast what she considered anti-war messages several times. And most famously, she had her picture taken sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, flanked by North Vietnamese Army soldiers.

Jane Fonda had been an anti-war activist for years, and was one of many Americans to visit Hanoi in an attempt to do something to bring the war to an end. But she was most certainly the most famous person to make such an appearance, and it was the most famous political action she has ever taken. And she has been hated by many Americans -- hated with a deep, seething anger -- for the four and a half decades since.

The picture of her sitting on the anti-aircraft gun, smiling, didn't help.

But does Jane Fonda deserve, in 2019, the hate she still gets from some Americans?

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