Bodies and Binaries in "Black Swan"
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The horror film, like other genres, has its characteristic conventions—a strong female protagonist, a sort of “monster,” gory spectacles, emphasis on sound, and the prominence of sex or sexuality, to name a few. However, genres are also constantly evolving and taking on new subject matter, and this is evident in the 2010 film Black Swan. Black Swan tells the story of Nina, a professional ballerina who has just landed the role of the Swan Queen in her dance company’s version of Swan Lake. Nina perfectly embodies the purity of the White Swan, but she struggles to portray the seductive nature of the Black Swan. The film unfolds Nina’s transformation from the white swan to the black swan while also highlighting the extreme binaries symbolized by the role: vulnerability versus strength and virgin versus whore. Black Swan manipulates, and at times refutes, the conventions of the horror genre in order to critique these binaries within a social context. Thus, through its focus on the vulnerable-strong binary of the female body as well as the virgin-whore binary of female sexuality, Black Swan establishes itself as a feminist horror. In the following analysis, I will concentrate mostly on Nina’s final two dances to show how the film encourages a feminist reading.