Though Garden State came out over 10 years ago, Zach Braff's directorial debut is still a pop cultural punchline. Even the film's star Natalie Portman is embarrassed by Garden State, and her revelation was, in part, brought on by one of those jokes from the ladies of Broad City. During an interview at the Toronto Film Festival, Portman mentioned that she loved Broad City, and their joke about Zach Braff made her insecure about one of her best-known roles. On the show, the obnoxiously positive fitness trainer Trey mentions that he donated thousands of dollars to Zach Braff's Kickstarter for Wish I Was Here because he loved Garden State so much.
But Portman revealed a more serious reason for disliking Garden State than the fact that some people she likes think of it as a joke. In the same talk, she discussed the way the film plays into the manic pixie dream girl trope. "I appreciate that people are writing characters that are interesting and unusual, rather than some bland female character as the girlfriend in a movie, but when the point of the character in this movie is to, like, help the guy have his arc, that’s sort of the problem, and that’s why it’s good that they’re talking about it, because it certainly is a troubling trope."
She makes a good point about female characters who are used as props, and in a very tactful way. Luckily, Portman has more feminist roles to be proud of, and she has spoken out about what she considers feminist in comparison to common misconceptions. "The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’re making a "feminist" story, the woman kicks ass and wins. That’s not feminist, that’s macho. A movie about a weak, vulnerable woman can be feminist if it shows a real person that we can empathize with." With that in mind, here are a few of her most famous, and feminist, roles.
Padmé Amidala is a powerful warrior and queen with emotional complexity in the Star Wars prequels.
V for Vendetta
Her role as Evey in V for Vendetta is dubiously feminist, but her growth during the film felt very real.
While Portman's character is unnamed, this minimal role in Wes Anderson's short film was complex and interior, seemingly fitting with Portman's idea of a feminist character.
The Other Boleyn Girl
Portman's portrayal of the ambitious Boleyn was praised for the strength and intelligence she gave to a character in a horrible situation.
The controversial film explored many feminist themes of body image, female relationships, and patriarchal violence.
While Portman does play a superhero's girlfriend, she is a scientist whose work is actually useful in the film. Portman defended the role, saying that the character is "multi-faceted" in her strengths and weakness, and thus more feminist than if "she knows how to do kung fu."
Images: Miramax Films; Giphy (5)