January 14, 2011


During one of my lunch hour reads I came across a comment by the actress, Natalie Portman. She was being interviewed for her recent movie, “The Black Swan” in which she plays a dancer who explores the good and evil aspects of her character, hoping to find inspiration for her duo role as the white and black swan in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.” As an aside, the actress talks about her newly formed production company where she hopes to produce films that better reflect a woman’s view of the world than those produced in a male dominated Hollywood.  She explains:

        “We’re trying to go for that guy-movie tone, like Judd Apatow’s movies or    “The Hangover” but with women – who are generally not allowed to be beautiful and funny, and certainly not vulgar.” (Vogue, January 2011, pg. 102) 

My first reaction to her comment was schoolmarmish, I admit: Why would  anyone strive to be vulgar? Just to show that one could? And who are these mythical Hollywood males at whom she would be thumbing her nose? Would they be enlightened by her work or satisfied that in expressing the vulgar, she had become one of them?

Of course, I’m 74 not 29 so I shouldn’t judge her ambition. I hardly remember what I thought was important at 29. But I did agree with another of her comments — that it is difficult to be original. One reason is that people, like Portman, confuse rebellion with setting themselves free. Unfortunately, rebellion has little to do with freedom or originality. Rebellion is a reaction to someone else’s sphere of influence. Like sitting on a teeter-totter, one operates in tandem with one’s opponent. As long as the link exists, one is neither free nor original. Sometimes rebellion is necessary, of course. But choosing not care about things like other people’s stereotypes is closer to freedom.  Not to care silences the noise of rebellion.  Only then can one listen to one’s inner voice — the source of freedom and originality.

            “…Teach us to care and not to care

                Teach us to sit still.  (T.S. Eliot, “Ash Wednesday”)