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Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher Sell Sex With “No Strings Attached”

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Posted on January 20 2011 12:00 pm
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

I think holding the door for the girl that you are having casual sex with is very romantic.

It should shock no one to hear such irreverent “wisdom” escape the lips of Ashton Kutcher. The comment is from a recent promotional interview for his forthcoming romantic comedy No Strings Attached. In it, he stars opposite Natalie Portman as life-long platonic friends who drop the platonic without adding love or commitment.

The calling card of “No Strings” is its cavalier attitude toward casual sex, and how members of the opposite sex have precious few boundaries talking about or engaging in the practice of making love. This isn’t “The Philadelphia Story,” where subtle references to sex were lightly bandied about by the likes of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. Instead, screenwriter Elizabeth Meriweather talks frankly about physicality in the 21st century.

The times have changed, you see. As Portman tells Entertainment Weekly, it’s high time Hollywood‘s depictions of romance change as well.

“I’ve always wanted to do [a romantic comedy],” says the newly pregnant star… But the girls are always in fashion, and it’s always about their clothes. They always want to get married at the end. There’s some kind of makeover scene. That stuff offends me(…)”

…says Portman’s producing partner, Annette Savitch. “We want to do movies that are female driven, from a fresher perspective. So if it’s a comedy, it’s not just about women out to find husbands. I think that’s really lacking today.”

Right about here is where you might expect a moralizing diatribe about the ongoing collapse of Western civilization. This is a conservative blog after all. However, let us consider a slightly more nuanced response.

While it is certainly disconcerting to see romantic relationships further devalued in art, along with the institution of marriage, there is an opportunity at such moments to affirm the value of tradition. First, we must concede the truth in the observation Kutcher, Portman, and their new film are attempting to make. The way men and women relate sexually is different today than it has been in the past. The availability of contraception, the prominence of abortion, and the manageability of many sexually transmitted diseases has enabled an era where sex is perceived to have fewer consequences than before. Be that as it may, even as men and women give themselves haphazardly to lust, the emptiness of their experience is a testament to the value of higher ideals.

Despite their rhetoric, if their personal lives are any indication, both Kutcher and Portman see the value in commitment and family. As a father, Kutcher plainly hopes for more than casual sex for his own children.

“My youngest daughter just went on a date with a kid,” Kutcher continued. “I made him come in. He said hello. He walked her to the door at the end of the night and did all the right things. So that gives me hope…”

Meanwhile, Portman carries her fiancé’s child. Surely, if either star felt casual uncommitted relationships were preferable, that is what they would choose for themselves and recommend to those closest to them. Instead, it seems likely their come-what-may remarks on intimacy are informed, not by their hearts’ true desire, but the expectation of the bohemian culture in which they live, work, and play.

I suspect No Strings Attached ends up making this point, as the most obvious direction for the plot is a journey through the inevitable emotional complications of sex. Depending upon whether the couple ends up together or not, the tale could either be cautionary or uplifting. Certainly, if screenwriter Liz Meriwether is honest about human nature, she will concede that, in these kinds of “friends with benefits” situations, there are always a few strings attached.

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