***UPDATE: Gov. Huckabee’s released a statement:
“I was asked about Oscar-winner Natalie Portman’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Natalie is an extraordinary actor, very deserving of her recent Oscar trophy and I am glad she will marry her baby’s father. However, contrary to what the Hollywood media reported, I did not “slam” or “attack” Natalie Portman, nor did I criticize the hardworking single mothers in our country.”
I agree that the use of the terms “attack” and “slam” go too far — which is why I was careful to use “criticize” in the headline. I also agree he didn’t criticize her or anyone else for being a single mother. I didn’t criticize either the Governor or Medved for that. My issue was their contention that Portman was somehow promoting single motherhood. Furthermore, I also think singling the Governor out as most outlets have done is unfair, which is why I included Michael Medved in both the story and the headline. However, if you read the transcript, Huckabee does make it sound as though Portman “boasted” about her situation, which I found unfair and which lays the rest of his statement at her feet, at least in part. This was the focus of my criticism.
In the past and with great relish I’ve criticized Natalie Portman on this site for her political musings, and I couldn’t agree more that glamorizing single motherhood and downplaying the necessity of the father is as destructive to our society as anything. Dan Quayle was absolutely right in criticizing “Murphy Brown” and after all the snotty left-wing snarking quieted, I think we can all agree that history acquitted Quayle — even Murphy Brown herself admitted the former Vice President was correct. Natalie Portman, however, is not Murphy Brown. She never glamorized single motherhood. If anything, she glamorized motherhood, and that’s all the difference in the world.
And so, as much as I respect and personally admire Michael Medved and Governor Mike Huckabee, it’s impossible for me to defend either against the criticism they’re facing. Their misguided attack on Ms. Portman wasn’t only unfair, it played right into the hands of almost every negative stereotype of the social, religious conservative there is.
For starters, unlike Murphy Brown, Portman is not a fictional character. She’s a living, breathing human being who has just been unfairly singled out and held up for a public shaming. Secondly, she’s been with the father of her child for two years now and the two of them are currently engaged and appear to be very much in love. Only in its narrowest meaning does the term “single mother” even apply here. In the real world, Portman is not on her own and the child does and will have a father in its life.
Finally, nothing Portman said or did during Sunday’s Academy Awards’ telecast resembles Monday’s exchange between Huckabee and Medved on Medved’s nationally syndicated radio show:
MEDVED: [T]here was one moment where a very brilliant and admirable actress named Natalie Portman won Best Actress, and she won for a movie which I loathed called Black Swan. But in any event, she got up, she was very visibly pregnant, and it’s really it’s a problem because she’s about seven months pregnant, it’s her first pregnancy, and she and the baby’s father aren’t married, and before two billion people, Natalie Portman says, ‘Oh I want to thank my love and he’s given me the most wonderful gift.’ He didn’t give her the most wonderful gift, which would be a wedding ring! And it just seems to me that sending that kind of message is problematic.
HUCKABEE: You know Michael, one of the things that’s troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, ‘Hey look, you know, we’re having children, we’re not married, but we’re having these children, and they’re doing just fine.’ But there aren’t really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a movie. And I think it gives a distorted image that yes, not everybody hires nannies, and caretakers, and nurses. Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that’s the story that we’re not seeing, and it’s unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock.
Medved’s factually wrong here. Again, Portman’s engaged to be married, so she already has the promise of the wedding ring and she also didn’t thank her “love” for a “wonderful gift,” she thanked the man she’s going to marry for giving her the “most important role of my life” — meaning motherhood. She also thanked her parents for giving her life. As a social conservative, I personally beamed upon hearing this, upon hearing a lovely young woman enjoying one of the very peak’s of her success and using the opportunity to give life a shout-out. What Portman did Sunday night was very un-Hollywood. In front of the biggest audience she’ll likely ever face, she let the world know that motherhood is her most important role, her highest priority.
For some reason, Medved says he found that message “problematic.” But in what way? Again, Portman was in no way glamorizing single motherhood, if she was glamorizing anything it was motherhood. We need more of this, and when the joyless, totalitarian feminists attacked Portman the following day, the fact that all the right people felt so threatened only confirms the beauty of Portman’s message.
Governor Huckabee’s piling on is equally wrong-headed. I’m no theologian, I just know what I know, but the public shaming and singling out of a woman for getting pregnant out of wedlock feels the opposite of Christian to me. Again, Portman is not Murphy Brown, she’s a living, breathing human being with feelings and making the very best out of her situation — and doing so, in my opinion, with dignity and class. Furthermore, this shaming is based on something that isn’t true. Huckabee accuses Portman of boasting over her situation when all she boasted over was the importance of motherhood in her life.
Medved and Huckabee’s underlying message here is correct but within the context of Ms. Portman it falls on its face. And I get that you can be on live radio and the conversation can get ahead of you. I’ve been in that situation and can think of more than a few things I’d like to take back — which is what I would do if I were Huckabee and Medved, I would apologize.
Just a couple weeks ago Michael Medved publicly criticized Rush Limbaugh and others for, in his opinion, going too far with their criticizing of Obama, claiming it hurt the movement. Well, I think Monday both he and the Governor did our movement no favors. Many of Natalie Portman’s political opinions deserve criticism and even mockery, but she’s a human being in a very human and imperfect situation that she’s handling as well as anyone could. From what I’ve seen, she’s going to be a terrific mother and deserves only support and best wishes from those of us who believe in life and that motherhood is the most important role in life.
The world needs more Natalie Portmans in Hollywood, and I regret not saying so at the time. I’ve been awfully quick to criticize her and it shouldn’t have taken this situation to give credit where its due.
We are all so imperfect.