Natalie Portman annoys me. She has for a while too. I'm not part of the recent backlash. I've always disliked her. Why? Because she annoys me.
To be fair, Portman is pretty. I have never denied that. She has a lovely face. I am not going to deny that. But really, does this make you someone who deserves to be seen as a role-model or an Oscar wining actress? Does this even make you deserve to be a celebrity?
First off, Portman is arrogant. She's always talking about how cultured she is and how she went to Harvard, but it's like she's not self-aware enough to know what GOT her these opportunities. Celebrities have been getting into the Ivy League to give these schools publicity for decades and will continue to do so for decades more (I'm assuming James Franco will get at least a few more fake PhD's before he's through). Connected people, from movie stars to royalty, have long gotten preferential treatment when it comes to getting into prestigious unis, and judging by Portman's current behaviour, I'm starting to thing she was one of them. Because honestly, after watching her lately, she doesn't seem that smart.
My irrational hatred for Ms. Portman became much more justified when she got pregnant and declared that she would like to stay inside all throughout her pregnancy because she didn't want to go outside while looking like a "whale." That's a lovely comment that surely makes all women who are bigger than Ms. Portman's prepregnant body (that's most women who have gone through puberty) feel like shit. It's also an offensive comment to pregnant women by implying they're all so unattractive they should hide until they pop. It harkens back to the days when pregnancy made people so uncomfortable back in Victorian Great Britain that doctors recommended "confinement" to women when they started to show. For someone who claims to be so feminist-identified, you'd think Portman would show greater concern for the feelings of pregnant and larger women. After all, her comments weren't made to a random friend at a coffee shop, but to an international magazine. With great privilege comes great responsibility, and I'm not sure Portman lives up to hers there.
I don't just have a problem with Portman the personality, but I also have a problem now with Portman the artist, with her movies. So, Portman has recently made it known she wants to make romantic comedies that are empowering to women. This would be an admirable goal, if Portman knew how to do that. Having just seen "No Strings Attached", I think Portman really fails to do that and doesn't seem to understand.
"No Strings Attached" features Portman playing a doctor who appears to be on the autism spectrum. She's awkward to the point of asking someone she barely knows to go to her father's funeral with her as her date without actually specifying that it IS in fact a funeral. Because of this, Ashton Kutcher's character unwittingly shows up clad in an orange hoodie. Rather than being funny, to me the scene where Ashton stands by as others grieve for a man he's never met and didn't even know was dead twenty minutes before was just hard to watch. It was disturbing, but for some reason, it's MEANT to be funny.
As the film progresses, Portman shows herself as a jealous character who wants to have casual sex with Kutcher but also doesn't want him to see other women. In short, she wants to have her cake and eat it too. She's portrayed as a ridiculous hypocrite and not a sympathetic character at all.
Kutcher and Portman finally do end up together, but Kutcher isn't part of the reason they are kept apart. He is portrayed as a standup guy who's emotionally mature enough to have a real relationship, but Portman is the problem. She can't be in a relationship. She is jealous of her competition and yet refuses to be exclusive, and so, Kutcher ad Portman must go separate ways because Portman is inconsistent, crazy and broken. Never fear, however! Because Portman's sister and mother give her advice. They tell her that she's broken for not wanting a relationship rather than simply giving her a lecture on the problems with hypocrisy.
Portman learns her lesson and goes to find Kutcher. They live happily ever after in the end, because the broken girl got fixed, but I left the movie thinking, "Fuck, she wasn't broken because she wasn't into committed relationships, she was broken because she was too immature to get over her jealousy in order to have the type of casual relationships she wanted to have!" Portman's character gives a rousing defense of light relationships. She's right - she wants an impressive career, and it's hard to do both and she's not very good at relationships, either, so she rationally decides not to have them. It all makes sense. All decisions have upsides and downsides, and sure, jealousy is one side effect of choosing against monogamy, but that's why you TRY not to be jealous. That's why we're supposed to work on our flaws. Every decision has a cost and involves sacrifices, and the fact that Portman's character doesn't get that isn't empowering to me as a woman.
Sure, in the end Portman decides to try to make things work with her former lover, but one wonders how long that will last? Portman isn't even sensitive enough to warn her date he's attending a funeral beforehand, so one wonders how well she'll be able to look after another person's needs in a longterm relationship? Not being good at relationships does not make you a failure as a woman. Wanting to focus on things that you're good at, like your career instead is a legitimate choice. There's nothing wrong with making that. I wish the film wouldn't moralize and tell us Portman was broken before, but just needed the love of a good man (Kutcher) and some sage advice from "proper women" who like both marriage and babies to fix herself.
So, in conclusion, I don't like Portman. I don't like her public persona and I really don't like her latest film. So, congrats on winning your Oscar, Nat! I wish you well, but please find a way to be less annoying...