Why Are We So Obsessed With Natalie Portman’s Authenticity?

So, Natalie Portman probably didn’t do a lot of the dancing for Black Swan. And now there are rumors that she used a butt double for a swimming scene in the upcoming Your Highness. Uh oh! Sometimes movie stars can’t do everything, you’re saying?

The dancing scandal especially is something I don’t understand. To recap, Sarah Lane, the dancer who was Portman’s double in the film, is saying that Portman did way less of the dancing for the film than she claimed. And the studio and choreographer rushed to say that it wasn’t true, that Natalie did the vast majority of the work. Well, naturally — it would ruin the mystique they’ve built up around Portman’s preparation for the role, in which she supposedly worked her ass off for a year and a half to become magically awesome at ballet.

At the risk of sounding obvious, professional dancers work their whole lives to get to that point. There’s no way Portman did it in a year. And no one should be disappointed by this! She’s an actress, not a ballerina. We have some weird complex about authenticity when it comes to our movie stars, despite the fact that their whole profession is about pretending to be someone else. People wet themselves when stars physically alter themselves for a role (remember all the panting about Christian Bale losing 60 pounds for The Machinist?) because stars making a real-life effort for a fictional role makes the entire enterprise seem more valid, somehow. Why do we want movies to be real life? It’s childish.

This is also a Natalie Portman thing. People are so weird about her! Have you noticed that most men literally cannot talk about Natalie Portman without seeming creepy? It’s always some weird quasi-sexual thing that suggests, implicitly or otherwise, that they wished they had impregnated Natalie Portman in Benjamin Millepied’s stead. We want Portman to be perfect and innocent because everyone loved Garden State, but our illusions have been shattered by her pregnancy and by all the fucked up things that happened in Black Swan. Now nobody knows what to think, so they wring their hands about a few dancing scenes because they miss when she was the quintessential Manic Pixie Dream Girl and life was simple.

Anyway. Stars: they’re not just like us. Whether it’s really Portman dancing, or really Portman’s ass in a brief dip in the pond, it doesn’t matter! None of those things are real anyway.

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