Tag: the wrestler

Black Swan/The Wrestler, good/bad sexualities and self-destruction as transformation

by on Dec.23, 2010

Beware of spoilers.


I’m surprised nobody’s brought up Black Swan yet, the new Aronofsky film starring Natalie Portman as an overcontrolled frigid ballerina who must learn how to be sexual in order to make great art. I generally love Aronofsky for his grandiosity and adolescence, his willingness to tunnel into black holes of self-destruction and his refusal of reprieve. The instability with which Black Swan approaches self-destruction — at times seeming to fetishize it, at times seeming to mock it (especially at the end) — provides the tension that for me rules the film, and that does so really effectively. But the way in which Aronofsky connects self-destructive and pathologized sexuality is pretty clichéd in both Black Swan and its companion piece, The Wrestler, and both films’ protagonists are gendered in really heavy-handed ways especially with regard to their sexualities.

I can’t decide whether this execution of cliché is interesting or just disappointing. On the one hand, both characters epitomize heteronormativity turned in on itself: Nina, Portman’s character, is in a certain way so highly feminized she (apparently) must also be desexualized (passive, innocent, naïve, virginal (though it’s unclear whether she is, in fact, a virgin)), whereas Randy in The Wrestler is in a certain way so highly masculinized he (apparently) must also be hypersexualized (carnal, virile, irresponsible, wild, found at strip bars when not in the ring) — with both sexualities pathologized to signal the characters’ difficulties connecting with reality and other people.

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