Thursday, March 20, 2008

Smart women . . .

I like Natalie Portman. Let me say that right from the off. Let me also stress that nothing I write in this a-typical blog rant is meant to in any way diminish her talent, her brains (she went to Harvard for crying out loud), her beauty, and all her other qualities which I am unfamiliar with because I don't know her personally.

I like Natalie Portman.

This rant has nothing to do with her.

It has to do with the cover of this month's Elle magazine.

Natalie Portman is featured on the cover, looking lovely, with the headline: NATALIE PORTMAN IS ONE OF THE SMARTEST WOMEN WE KNOW, WHICH IS WHY SHE'S PERFECT FOR OUR INTELLIGENT WOMEN ISSUE!

I read this headline while in the corner store, and I actually took pause and read it a few times. I couldn't help but laugh. Because, yes, I am sure Natalie Portman is very intelligent, but come on. I think we need a bit of a caveat there.

NATALIE PORTMAN IS ONE OF THE SMARTEST WOMEN WE KNOW - who also happens to be stunningly beautiful, a big famous film star and has a movie out right now that she needs to promote.

See I don't mind when a magazine lives up to its promises of superficiality. I'll read up on the latest trends in skirts like anyone else. Heck sometimes I buy Vanity Fair just for the pictures (I've even tried to emulate their style with my cast photo from last summer's production). But when the idea is to sell what is beneath the surface (in this case intelligence) by so obviously still using the surface to truly sell the message . . . I get a bit frustrated.

So I was all set to get irate and frustrated with the state of the magazine world, when suddenly it occurred to me . . . my goodness. Maybe Natalie Portman is one of the smartest women Elle knows. Then I had a lightbulb moment. It's not Elle's fault. Maybe they just travel in very different circles than, let's say, I do.

If only Elle had asked my opinion on the subject. If only they had asked me for a list. I could have rattled off woman after woman, all utterly brilliant and well worth being a cover girl, and Elle wouldn't have had to lower themselves to using an obvious film star.

How about some ladies going for their PhD's and not yet 30? I know a fair few of those. Or are you more interested in helping others? I have a girl friend out there who not only got her masters in Equity studies, but who started her own theatre company that works with the disabled to create incredibly poignant and fabulous shows. I also know doctors and lawyers if you like the helping other people theme. Perhaps Elle has a soft spot for the arts, well I have a long list of authors, actors, directors, fight instructors/masters, visual artists, singers, dancers . . . if this list of choices is too daunting may I assure Elle that many of these talents can be found within the same person.

Hey, I hear the environment is a big buzz word these days, I have a friend doing her masters on the subject and practicing what she preaches all the way in New Zealand right now.

Or how about my mom. Seriously Elle, how about my mom?

Not only is she an amazing teacher, and knows basically every book like ever, she seems to know . . . everything. You ask her a question about religion, politics, why the sky is blue, and she has the answer. The right answer. Heck, if my mom doesn't have the answer, it's so rare it is shocking. And what is super cool is that she is more than willing to admit she doesn't know the answer and then help you find it. She is also a wiz financially. She just gets numbers, and how to invest, and is ridiculously smart about it. Add onto all that a whim of hers to be my manager of my writing career, something she has no experience with at all, and has somehow managed to book me onto television shows, and events and get me interviews, and just somehow knows what to do and who to contact . . .

Elle, I'm telling you, my mom, now that's one of the smartest women I know. Smartest PERSON, I know. Also she's hot, so she'd make an excellent cover model, if we must do the whole superficial thing. I'm not above being superficial, Elle.

But I don't begrudge you Elle, you didn't know that I knew these people. You didn't know to ask me. I mean come on, when you think about it, what is the chance that one person would know so many unbelievably smart women?

But next time Elle, give me a call first. I've got a list that would give you cover models for a couple years at least.


Kanani said...

I know. I hate the transparency, too. I used to love to watch Charlie Rose, until he started giving loads of air time to celebs and directors with some fairly lousy movies to plug. It wasn't lost that we were all being used as shills.

Mary said...

Another great rant, Adrienne!

The problem is that Elle doesn’t really want a smart woman on the cover -- they want a film star. And the Smart Women line is a fresh way to spin it. That’s not a reflection of what the Elle team thinks, but what they think will sell to their readers.

I’m part of a panel that gives their opinions on cover titles for a major fashion magazine. Some of them are dreadful, seriously underestimating the intelligence of the readers.

A sad state of affairs, indeed.

Your mom sounds fantastic!

hwalk said...

This is so funny. Perhaps Natalie Portman is intelligent, but they don't associate with any other intelligent people, so it seems significant.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your point that they didn't have to pick an obvious star to be on the cover, but you have diminished Natalie Portman by suggesting she may be smart but she is only an actress promoting a movie. She is that, but she is also a Harvard grad who majored in Psycholgy,has pursued graduate studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, she has published two papers in professional scientific journals, she is a producer, director, bilingual in Hebrew and spanish, has studied four other languages including Arabic. She has designed her own line of vegan shoes, she has participated in many philanthropic causes -- she cares much more about the world than most starlets do in that she acts on her beliefs and works for those causes. She has been an environmental activist since the age of 12.She has traveled to Uganda, Guatemala, and Ecuadore to help promote FINCA's micro-lending program which helps women start their own businesses and has promoted the Village Banking campaign to help people lift themselves out of poverty. She is stunningly beautiful, but she doesn't have to wear makeup or be glamorous to achieve that either. She shaved her head to take a part in a movie soley for its political relevance. I think people think she is hot because of her beauty, but her inner beauty is just as important to me and others who admire her. She is only in her twenties. Give her time; she may be someone's mom someday and worthy of the kind of admiration you have for yours. --Howesuse

Adrienne said...

Howesuse - I thought that my opening paragraph would have made it clear that I did have a great deal of respect for Natalie Portman and that I in no way meant to put her down by my comments on the Elle article. I was angry at Elle, not Natalie Portman, and if you re-read my post, you would see that is the case. I do think she is worthy of praise and attention for all the things you listed (and thank you, by the way for the list, I was only aware of half of those accomplishments).

BUT. Do you truly believe that Elle didn't ALSO choose her because she was a famous movie star and beautiful? Aside from the people I know in my life, there are so many accomplished, smart women out there, women who don't have the public platform Natalie Portman obviously does, women who don't get the accolades and the great defenders such as yourself. Women I have never met but have changed the lives of thousands, and contributed just as much to the world as Natalie Portman has.

I think it is admirable to see a young movie star be smart and make good choices, and it is brilliant that we celebrate them as well as the party crazy girls out there who get far too much air time in my opinion. She is a brilliant role model, and an appropriate cover girl.

Like I said at the beginning, there is nothing at all wrong with Natalie Portman, she is an admirable woman, and deserves to be noticed.

I just think it would be nice to see a glamorous magazine like Elle feature a cover girl who isn't famous. A cover girl who has done just as much, if not more, and is just as worthy as Natalie Portman is.

I know a lot of such women, I am sure you do too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments and understanding. Maybe my response was a little bit of a knee-jerk reacton, but I actually thought Elle had made the right choice. I do, however, believe they could learn from your comments and include other women, from various walks of life, non-famous women who have those qualities as well. I would like to see your mom on the cover -- in fact-- why not do a "cover" story of your own about her and some of the other women you mentioned here. I would read it and I bet many of your readers would apprecitate it! --Howesuse

djpaterson said...

Hi Adrienne

I'll bet your mom works for these guys:


marta said...

When I first came across your blog and saw that photo, I thought--hey, that looks like a Vanity Fair photo. Ha! Glad I was right. As for Elle, well, it just goes to show that being smart is never enough. You have to be smart and beautiful or forget it. You also have to be young. And famous.

Kanani said...

Elle, Charlie Rose, Vanity Fair are in the business of selling copies or getting people to watch their shows because they're dependent on advertisers to pay their bills. Yes, I'm aware that when Charlie gives airtime to an annoyingly trite movie, we're being used as shills in order to ensure ratings so his advertisers will see that it's really worth spending money on. It's the reason he can afford to do shows on more important people!

It's the same with Elle. Portman is smart and also loves fashion, she is a saleable choice for the cover because she's also a movie star.

And today in the fashion industry, we can't ignore that stars are huge purveyors of fashion & style --be it everything from couture to Martha Stewart at K-Mart.

Where I think we all get tired is when the industry trots out the same old same old. So stars like Portman and Sarah Jessica Parker will saturate the newstands and we just get bored by them.

But it's okay. There's always someone new on the horizon!

Anonymous said...

Glamour magazine annually features non-celebrity women who've done a lot for their community/etc. Of course, they're not featured on the cover but atleast they get some notority