The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘The Most Important Role of My Life’

Posted on | February 28, 2011 | 32 Comments

Sunday night, when Natalie Portman accepted her Oscar, the radiantly pregnant actress concluded her acceptance speech by thanking “my beautiful love,” dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, for giving her the “most important role of my life.”

As Steven Ertelt of reports, Portman’s maternal joy rankled some viewers. Lizzie Skurnick Tweeted:

Like, my garbageman could give you your greatest role in life, too, lady.

Perhaps you will be surprised that Skurnick’s blog is called “The Old Hag.” Perhaps not. But Skurnick’s catty putdown of Portman evidently prompted an entire column at Salon by Mary Elizabeth Williams railing against Portman’s assertion of the greater importance of motherhood:

Why, at the pinnacle of one’s professional career, would a person feel the need to undercut it by announcing that there’s something else even more important? Even if you feel that way, why downplay your achievement? Why compare the two, as if a grueling acting role and being a parent were somehow in competition? And remind me — when was the last time a male star gave an acceptance speech calling fatherhood his biggest role?

It’s always something with these ax-grinders, you see? They can’t be content to let Portman have her moment, and celebrate with her the double joy of winning an Oscar and being pregnant, because the ax-grinders can’t stand to see anyone contented and joyful.

Ertelt quoted Wendy Wright of Concerned Women of America: “The selflessness of motherhood is the antithesis of Hollywood narcissism.” Maybe that’s why Portman and other actresses — Hollywood’s had something of a “baby boom” in recent years — relish motherhood: It’s so unlike the selfish superficiality of show business.

But you don’t have to be in Hollywood, or be a mother, to appreciate this. The famous social critic Christopher Lasch once wrote a provocative book about family life called Haven in a Heartless World, the title of which summarizes what the family should be — a loving refuge from the cruelty of a world that has no reason to love us the way our own flesh-and-blood love us. Yet it is anathema to the ax-grinders for any woman to acknowledge a fondness for hearth and home because (at least in the ax-grinders’ disordered minds) a home-loving woman is undermining the feminist sisterhood’s crusade for career equality.

So obviously, when one of the world’s most famous and admired young women gets pregnant, then tearfully thanks the father of her child for giving her the “most important role” of her glamorous life . . . well, yeah, that really required a pushback from the ax-grinders. They’re not happy and they don’t want anyone else to be happy, either.


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