With the steady march of the “Nutcrackers,” dance becomes the popular girl-of-the-arts world in December. But this year, with Darren Aronofsky’s film “Black Swan,” she becomes the mean girl too: pop culture’s narcissistic, competitive, take-no-prisoners witch.
Aronofsky’s film starts out where “The Nutcracker” leaves off, in the naïve, safe cocoon of childhood. But Nina (Natalie Portman), the rising “Swan Lake” star at the film’s center, is clearly one stuck kid. Though she’s in her 20s, she lives with her mother and keeps her bedroom a cushy museum of stuffed toys. Then, surprise! She devolves—some might say evolves, I suppose—into a violent psycho whose efforts to grow up somehow entail self-destructive, drug-fueled sex with strangers.
Why must ballet be infantilized or demonized? Why is there no in-between?
Here might be part of the reason. The heroines of both “The Nutcracker” and “Black Swan” are narcissists. Clara, seated on a throne in the second act, becomes the adored recipient of the performers’ blandishments.