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13 December 2010, 5:10 pm 7 Comments

Zack's Ramblings: Is “Black Swan’s” Lesbian Kiss for Queer Girls, or Straight Guys?

This post was submitted by Zack Rosen

Well, today I’m going to be the guy who writes a lengthy diatribe on a movie I haven’t seen. That movie is Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s Oscar-buzzing psychological thriller starring Natalie Portman as a ballerina who is subsumed by her own dark side. That dark side, as I have garnered from the trailer, involves a lot of mirrors and making out with Mila Kunis. I am saving my actual viewing of this movie for Christmas Day, when the Jews of the world rise up and take over the nation’s multiplexes and make their bathrooms smell like the alley behind bad Chinese restaurants. And because I haven’t yet seen Black Swan it’s been fun to consider it not as an actual movie, but as a second-hand piece of contemporary cultural phenomenon.

I’m a sucker for anything that is dark, moody and contains tinges of the supernatural. Hence my attraction to, say, Zachary Quinto or guys who work at comic shops but still have tans. So I’ve been excited to see Black Swan for quite some time. Other people’s excitement, though, particularly guys who comment on The Onion AV Club, seem way more drawn in by the Portman/Kunis kiss than things like the movie’s plot. Hell, when the trailer first came out there was very little to be gleaned about its plot and yet people (mostly straight guys and queer girls) were pretty damn excited about it.

Though there has been better luck with mainstream movies featuring gay characters in the last couple years (thanks, Brokeback) it is also common to get films that have intense gay love stories and a scant portrayal of physical love between between its gays. (Fuck you, Brokeback.) Take the new Ewan McGregor/Jim Carrey love-story-in-prison flick I Love You Phillip Morris. That one has been delayed for years at this point and it’s pretty safe to guess its combination of gay romance and actual sex (including that rare cinematic breed, The Nelly Top) is behind Philip Morris’ slow crawl to a theater near your single, well-dressed uncle’s house.

Black Swan, however, has been given a mainstream marketing campaign on par with a new flavor of Pepsi. Any culture-focused website is likely to be graced with either its still picture or streaming preview, and at this point there aren’t many people alive who can view Black Swan‘s iconography without remembering “Hey, femme girls totally go at it in this one!” It is extremely hard for me to imagine a movie studio greenlighting a similar campaign focused around McGregor kissing Carey, no matter how much broad box office appeal either man possesses. Can you imagine logging onto Entertainment Weekly‘s website and being greeted with a still image of two actual men, actually kissing? I can’t either.

Widely-marketed movies with queer themes tend to be either relatively-sexless blockbusters with straight appeal (Yup, Brokeback) or queer-people-have-tragic-lives-lets-get-some-awards-for-it biopics like Milk or Boys Don’t Cry. Fox Searchlight seems to have put a lot of money into Black Swan and its campaign reflects neither of those categories. That mean’s they either wised up and are heavily targeting the queer women demographic in mixed-readership arenas or they are trying to horn up straight guys who would never otherwise see a movie that didn’t showcase Dwayne Johnson and gunfighting.

My money, of course, is on the latter. What do you think?

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  • jude said:

    What does this mean??? “the Jews of the world rise up and take over the nation’s multiplexes and make their bathrooms smell like the alley behind bad Chinese restaurants”

  • Dickie said:

    I’ve not seen one minute of the trailer, and I could care less about any sex scene in this movie. I knew it as a new Aronofsky movie, and that’s all I needed to know to get me to want to see it. He’s got a pretty sizable core audience anymore, especially after The Wrestler was so well received.

    And the ads I have seen for it splashed on line haven’t been of the girls making out variety. In fact, the only reason I know that this happens is because everyone seems to think that’s all this movie is about.

    Perhaps I don’t consume media from the same sources though, so I may not be the best judge here. But, although the movie isn’t all about that scene, it is pretty important to the overall plot.

  • Dean said:

    I have not seen any ads for this movie, but I have seen the movie itself (I was dragged there by my sister-in-law and husband). Although I am a gay man who is not generally into women sexually, the sex scene between these two women is unquestionably quite hot (although also disturbing in ways having to deal with the main character’s mental condition) but not in any way gratuitous. To be clear, they do not just kiss, they have sex.

  • Dean said:

    I also have to say it is a good movie even if you have absolutely no interest in ballet (which I do not).

  • James said:

    I haven’t seen Swan yet because it hasn’t come out where I live, but when it does (FRIDAY!) I will surely be seeing it.

    I think you’re absolutely right in your assessment of why the kiss is included in the trailers, why the kiss is garnering so much attention, and that it’s demonstrative of a skewed value system when evaluating beauty and appeal in sexuality. Say it wasn’t Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman in a state of embrace, say it was, Julianne Moore and Annette Bening. Would a suggestively intimate and passionate moment between these two women be considered marketable by the people selling the film? Probably not. Given Kids is a way different movie than Swan (or at least as Swan appears to be).

    It has as much to do with patriarchy and the male gaze as it does with homophobia though. Though queer women (and some queer men) are likely to be titillated by the image of Kunis and Portman getting a little nasty, it’s probably mostly pandering towards the highly marketable and misogynist representation of two hot femme chicks doing it for an audience.

  • BiiaCX said:

    The scene between those two beautiful actresses is very “graphic”, i mean, it’s as graphic as it can be without showing any nudity…and it lasts over than a minute, there’s rough kisses, rough sex. The oral sex scene, it’s shown from Nina’s point of view, so you can actually see Lily’s head between Nina’s legs. You just can’t see her “hooha” because Lily’s hair is in the way.

    I think this scene may let some straight [or bi] guys horny, but is very needed in the plot, and the important thing is: The whole scene is from a girl point of view (Nina), so, as a bisexual chick, i have to say it appeal a LOT to gay and bi chicks, it’s even sexier to them, because of the “context”… *SPOILER* Nina and Lily came from the club, to Nina’s house, and her controlling mom screams at her, slaps her for drinking and using drugs… So she “drags” Lily to her bedroom, locks the door, and the action happens… *SPOILER ends*… A lot of bi-lez girls may identify with that situation, it’s symbolic, it’s when you get free from those parents who can’t accept you the way you are, who wants to control you. =D

    Having said that, the movie is great… no… it’s PERFECT. It’s disturbing [in a good way], it’s amazing. You should definitely watch it. =D

  • raphaella said:

    I think it’s for both of them! xD