Engaged and pregnant. Pregnant and engaged. No matter the order of the adjectives, Natalie Portman delivered the pitch perfect tabloid package this week when she announced-on a Monday, right before the weekly magazines closed, thereby guaranteeing prime coverage during a slow news week – that she is both engaged to her Black Swan choreographer and costar Benjamin Millepied and expecting his child.
But could one bombshell have dropped without the other? Engaged – of course. (This holiday season has seen a rash of celebrity engagements, most recently that of Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth .) But pregnant? Not for Portman, who was just 14 when many of us first saw her in Beautiful Girls , and who has been carefully burnishing her image as one of Hollywood’s good girls ever since.
Hollywood may not be a place that adheres to the doctrine of first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the Bugaboo, but consumers of celebrity (the ones who buy the movie tickets) still like their happy endings old-school.
There are exceptions: Eva Longoria can appear on the cover of In Touch magazine under the headline: "A Baby on My Own." But Eva (who is not yet pregnant), like Sandra Bullock before her (who adopted a son), can have that baby on her own because she was scorned by a bad man this year .
Likewise, women like Nicole Richie and Kourtney Kardashian can have baby daddies instead of husbands because they're reformed bad girls – the fact that they’ve settled down at all, even without rings, earns them public approval.
Not Natalie. Portman, now 29, has spent more than half her life cultivating her image. To break that stereotype during this pivotal moment in her race for a best actress Academy Award just wouldn't be prudent. The script says that good girls, when they find themselves pregnant, marry the baby’s father. Or at least they seriously consider it.
Yes, marriage appears to be on the decline across much of America . But people still idealize marrying, even if they’re not doing it themselves.
"In this country there are a lot of people who still frown on people having babies out of wedlock, or living together rather than being married," says Kathy Campbell, executive editor of celebrity baby Web site Hollybaby. Even if they don’t shun a single woman who has a child out of wedlock, Campbell says, "most Americans want the neat little package: marriage and a baby."
And then there are the Oscars to consider. The academy seems to like a married (or soon-to-be-married) pregnant lady – think Catherine Zeta-Jones grasping her best supporting actress statue in 2003, crying, "My hormones are way too out of control to be dealing with this!" Or Rachel Weisz, who in 2006 – while engaged to director Darren Aronofsky and sporting a baby bump – won a little gold man for best supporting actress in The Constant Gardener .
As StyleList celebrity editor Ben Widdicombe told me: "Getting engaged was definitely required of [Portman] in this situation. Awards season is a political campaign and happy families win votes."