Black Swan Analysis

773 Words4 Pages
Ben Kadie
Core 112
February 14, 2014
K. Zimolzak
Performance and Spectatorship in Black Swan
Black Swan is the story of Nina Sayer (Natalie Portman), a professional ballerina whose desire to achieve perfection as a performer ends in suicide. To play the role of the Swan Queen, Nina has to learn to play both the white swan and the black swan. A figure of innocence and naivity, Nina has little trouble adopting the white swan role, but she must endure the overt sexualization of her body by Thomas and find an inner darkness in order to become the black swan. Although Black Swan is a story about the artist's struggle for perfection, it is also about a woman seeking perfection through a man’s gaze. Sadly, the film fails to subvert the power of the male gaze and instead confirms it.
Black Swan focuses, almost exclusively, on a woman’s body. The film’s theme deals with the way Nina believes she can attain perfection and take control of her life through bulimic purging, scratching, and sexualizing herself. Nina's understanding of perfection is intertwined with the other characters' opinions about ideal femininity. By playing off two diametric, female types—the black swan and the white swan—the film addresses the unfortunate expectations for gender performance of women for straight men. Nina's most important performance in the film isn’t the roll of the Swam Queen in Swan Lake, but her gender performance in the role of a woman.
In the film, Aronofsky appropriates two female sterotypes—the naïve, inexperienced virgin and the sexually deviant seductress. Nina is initially portrayed as the virgin (the white swan) but is pressured by Thomas to take on the role of the black swan. After years of performing gender as the white swan (or as her mo...

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...n this process, whatever remains of Nina's self is destroyed as it is replaced by the directions and desires of another -- predominantly of the main male character, Thomas. Nina's eventual acquiescence to a male dominated and controlled version of her body, the film posits at its close, amounts to a kind of suicide she doesn't know she's committing. The pursuit of another's perfection leads, in the end, to a complete annihilation of self. The film suggests this destruction of self-determination is what women in a male dominated society face in everyday life.
Although Nina's character lives in a fictional plane, the issues that plague her life exist within our reality, which Aronofsky indicates with his inclusion of the subway scene and the scene with the flirtatious waiter. In the film, women perform for men until they are physiologically unable to sustain the role.

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