"Empire alone can create and sustain whiteness, despite the common fantasy of its self-sufficiency. The Black Swan must be mastered and absorbed to save whiteness from enervation and sterility. (As Odile in the poster, the heroine’s genuine essential whiteness is in question; having absorbed the whiteness-creating blackness of Lily, the Prima Donna is red-eyed like an albino and thickly painted white.) The bourgeois culture industry has deconstructed only to reconstruct as indestructible because ideal; it has discursively destabilized with “gynesis” the hierarchies of white supremacist patriarchy only to reaffirm them, killed them to give them the eternal life of spectres. Spectacle’s layerings – able to create the illusion of that DeManian “infinite” irony through a kind of seductive hypnosis – assist in the re-establishment of debunked mythology deploying a levelling operation whose main move is to place reality under an erasure it cannot re-emerge from entirely." (Qlipoth)
People can't seem to agree on the basic properties of Black Swan, probably nominated for a bunch of Oscars by now. [Some general spoilers follow here.] Is it camp? (If so, what kind?) Are the laughs this movie draws intentional or symptomatic? What about people who take the quasi-high romantic markers seriously? Black Swan is what I'd call a "diffuse" film - a deliberately multi-layered construction. In the work's complexity one is invited to bask in the codified indeterminacy of the entire affair. It's like "art" (multi-faceted, mercurial, rich, impossible to pin down), and yet not. This film contains so many diverse elements in terms of plot, theme, and style ... the result isn't a new thing with a new structure, but a clever theme park ride through various codifications of genre or symbolism, and various registers. A night out on the town? It's like Gossip Girl. High-pressure dance practice? It's like Center Stage. Frightful blurrings of fantasy and reality? It's like Repulsion. This sort of contained "surfing" can make for really interesting cinema (see here). All art cannibalizes and repurposes previous cultural content; plenty of great art deliberately courts ambiguity. I wonder here about the meta-orientation of this particular expression of ambiguity.
One generic ingredient in the Black Swan stew is the horror film - suspenseful editing strategies, the intense soundtrack, the overbearing generational conflict between mother and daughter (and absent father), horrific and animalistic CGI, and horror of one's own body and its involuntary changes - changes one both anxiously awaits and dreads. (A thought that crossed my mind, but which I haven't hashed out in conversation with anyone yet: Black Swan is a film about sublimated menstruation anxiety made from a male point of view.) Horror, Richard Dyer writes in White, "is a cultural space that makes bearable for whites the exploration of the association of whiteness with death."
The horror trope of vampirism for instance - white, ghastly, consuming - is so menacing, Dyer goes on, that it is often represented by whites who are not coded or accepted as completely white (Jews, Southeastern Europeans, creoles). Unsettlingly coincidental, then, that in this film's setting of a markedly moneyed, white subculture it is Portman and Kunis (both Jewish) who embody the emergent presence of this passionate, dionysian, destructive, selfish, unchaste thing, the black swan. The "deaths" of these two characters in the film signify the pyrrhic victory of a newly tempered whiteness, which has been threatened & pushed to its limit by that evil blackness.