Say what you will for hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway, 2011's Oscars were a big night for sperm.
Not only did the justly feted "The Kids Are All Right" introduce audiences to the concept of the hot donor daddy, but Natalie Portman, after praising her agents, parents, and even her costumiers, wound up her speech by thanking her baby daddy straight out for the good stuff: ". . . and to my beautiful love, Benjamin Millepied, who not only choreographed my role, but has now given me my greatest role in life."
It was the minor hilarity of this particular approbation that led to my cheeky tweet
the next day: "Like, my garbage man could give you your greatest role in life too, lady." This itself gave birth to a bunch of Internet chatter I wasn't -- you can't time these things! -- expecting.
First, Salon's whip-smart (we'll trade weapons) Mary Elizabeth Williams set up Natalie's dreamy hormoning
against the more nuanced comments of mom-of-four Annette Bening, who's spoken widely on Parenting While Actress. Next, PD's own Joanne Bamberger defended Portman's
right to find mothering her most important role. (To be fair, Joanne, Portman didn't help the mommy wars by setting it up as a competition.) Finally, some National Review commenters
called me and my tweet "ideologically corrupt" and suggested I had something against garbage men. (I love my garbage men. Commenters, on the other hand . . .)
But the purpose of my tweet was not, in fact, to object to Natalie declaring mommydom her "greatest role in life." (Though, parents, PLEASE remember, your children, like your dreams, are miraculous mostly in the abstract. Billy's after-school programs are no more transfixing than the dream in which your high school chemistry teacher is a Cheeto and you eat him.) My tweet was to note how hilarious for Natalie, or any pregnant woman, to thank a man for making her pregnant at all.
Whether by garbage man or not, it is a fact universally acknowledged that your average lady can, on a daily basis, be given the most important role of her life more often than she checks her teeth for lipstick. Go take a walk: Sperm tries to friend you on Facebook; invites you to coffee; forgets to buy condoms. This week, I flew from Gainesville to Atlanta to Newark, and got offered healthy sperm on each leg. (Oh, pun intended.)
Sperm knows its place, and it doesn't stand on ceremony. I regularly check the availability of high-quality semen for reproductive purposes in my area, and the response is always encouraging. "Sit right down!" "It's going to take me a few years to recover from this." "You're not going to use my name, right?"
In "The Kids Are All Right," a family seeks out the sperm donor who made it all possible only to find that it's they, not he, who made themselves a family. We don't know yet what kind of family Natalie Portman, Benjamin Millepied, and their offspring will make. But this week has told us a lot about Natalie Portman's own role in the world.
A model for Dior, Portman recently publicly and bravely condemned the company's designer, John Galliano,
for his anti-Semitic remarks. Galliano was fired, and Portman was praised widely for her integrity.
So, even if it's a question of semantics, Portman should remember that it's not choreographer Millepied, director Darren Aronofsky, George Lucas, or even her own parents who gave her her important role in life. Whether it's as a wing-exploding swan, defender of the Jewish people, or new mom, it's Natalie Portman who's done it -- herself.
May the Force be with her.
Postscript: I'd like to congratulate dear friends Steve and Barrie, who began their own most important roles in life yesterday by bringing forth offspring and possible new Dior designer Hank.