Will “Black Swan” Encourage Eating Disorders?
“Black Swan” is a great movie. It’s also, as Julie put it, “eating disorder porn.” In the movie, Natalie Portman’s character not only shows signs of anorexia—she’s also bulimic. I had hoped this wouldn’t seem glamorous to teens and women seeing the movie since, well, Natalie’s character also totally loses it in a downward spiral. But apparently that’s not the case. Just now, searching for images from the movie, I found one—at a site called “Thinspo Me Baby” on Tumblr, along with the caption, “Get your thinspiration from the upcoming movie Black Swan!!!” Another search brought me to Superskinnyus.blogspot.com. And another to Mydailythinspo.blogspot.com. Looks like pro-ana websites all over are looking to the movie. Super sad. For their roles in the movie, both Natalie and Mila Kunis lost about 20 pounds each—a lot considering that they are both very petite to begin with. Mila famously spoke out on hating how she looked and felt while filming. “I went down to 95 pounds. I weigh 117 usually, like today. I looked like Gollum,” she says. “It took me five months to lose 20 pounds, but it took me just five days—days!—to gain it all back.”
Natalie, however, has said that director Darren Aronofsky—known for putting his actors and actresses through extreme measures—encouraged her to lose the weight. She said, “Darren claims he never said this, but he definitely was like, ‘How thin do you think you can get without being sick?’”
Darren’s memory of this is a little different. He claims, “At a certain point in the middle of the ballet stuff, I thought she was getting way too skinny and I started to make her eat. It started to get scary, and she was starting to look too thin.”
Who is to blame here? It almost doesn’t matter. But it certainly sounds like they were on a slippery slope while filming.
I really wish women wouldn’t see the bodies in this movie as aspirational—it’s meant to be a portrayal, a dystopia even, of a subculture riddled with body issues.
That certainly seems to be how Natalie sees it. Natalie has a psychology degree from Harvard and, in an interview, was asked to diagnose her character. “It was absolutely a case of obsessive compulsive behavior. The scratching. The bulimia, obviously. Anorexia and bulimia are forms of OCD,” she says. “Ballet really lends itself to that because there’s such a sense of ritual — the wrapping of the shoes everyday and the preparing of new shoes for every performance.”
Read: do not try at home.