But really, that’s a disturbing statement. Ballerinas are notoriously obsessed with their weight and prone toward eating problems. And they have reason to be. Their careers often live and die by their body fat percentage. For an example, turn to an article from The New York Times just this week, where Alastair MaCaulay had this to say about City Ballet’s Nutcracker performance:
“Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many.”
Meow! That ballerina, BTW is a 37 year old mother of two who had to be prodded back on stage. But I digress.
There are many disturbing things about Black Swan, purposely. As costar Barbara Hershey puts it:
“Hopefully, because it is so extreme, I guess it is a warning, in a way, of what that seeking of perfection, which is true in this anorexic world, and the extreme damage it does.”
No one could walk away from this movie viewing Portman’s character as a role model. But the actress will be rewarded. She’s considered a strong contender for an Oscar. And a lot of the accolades are due to her extreme weight loss for the role.
Hopefully Black Swan will scare girls prone toward eating disorders straight. But it’s also hard to ignore the fact that Portman and Kunis boney frames often look beautiful in the film. As Kunis says:
“In real life, it looked disgusting. But in photographs and on film, it looked amazing.”
That’s one of the many disturbing parts of this movie. It takes training and discipline and striving for perfection to an absurdly unhealthy level. Will girls who watch this film use it as a gateway drug to eating disorders? Who knows. Did Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream launch a thousand crack addicts? Probably not.
But the love/hate relationship with not eating here is definitely disturbing. And while Aronofsky’s films may always be unsettling, there aren’t too many people who are going to lust after Mickey Rourke’s life in The Wrestler. But eating disorders are extremely transferable, and add an extra wrinkle to the subject matter.
It’s clear that Nina’s story is a horror tale, but there’s definitely a gray area of this film that heightens the depravity: and that’s the fact that it both condemns and thrives on a very unhealthy approach to eating.
UPDATE: We’ve got an essay from a formerly anorexic ballerina, documenting her experiences with ballet and limited caloric intake.