Black Swan

Black Swan
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jnarin

My I-hate-ballet-especially-the-Nutcracker husband must have really wanted a break. He agreed to go see the movie Black Swan. Neither one of us keeps up much with popular culture and our local movie theater almost never has movies we want to see. We needed a break from our computer screens, so we made a date with the Big Screen.

I think Black Swan is a must-see movie. If you haven’t seen the movie and are planning to, add this blogpost to your reader and read it after you see the movie.

It is a brilliant movie and Natalie Portman’s portrayal of principle ballerina, Nina, is amazing. What’s interesting to me is what people aren’t talking about around the movie. Or maybe I’ve seen the movie too close to Oscar-time and the more important conversations have already occurred. Regardless, this movie has the power to get people talking about some important issues.

The movie is billed as a psychological thriller. And it is. This movie is also a peek into some people’s reality. While there are glimpses of Nina’s psyche prior to getting her role of a lifetime in Swan Lake, you really see the price she pays as she is forced to explore the character of the black swan.

The defense mechanisms she constructs to navigate growing up with a narcissistic, controlling mother, the rigorous and competitive life of a ballet dancer, and the vulnerable transition between girlhood and young adulthood converge on Nina. As she forces herself to explore “letting go” and “losing herself” to sell the character of the black swan, she is faced with looking at a side of herself she’s not equipped to handle. Everyone around her is so wrapped up in their own worlds, no one sees how she is unraveling.

Psychosis is complicated. The movie gives us a realistic hint from Nina’s perspective. There are a lot of people, even some around us, who live this reality. Some have access to trained mental health professionals who can help them negotiate toward healing. Some can afford medications recommended and monitored by trained mental health professionals. Sadly, many slip through the cracks.

Recent events in the news only remind us of the delicate and complicated balance that faces us as a community. Most health insurance plans are very limited on what is covered under mental health. Medications are very costly and require monitoring. Treatment and therapy are time-intensive. Sometimes there isn’t a cure, only maintenance. Most will continue to lead productive, self-reliant lives if these resources are available to them.

My prayer is that we will care for the black swans among us and wrestle with the complex issues to ensure that opportunities for transformation are available to all of us.

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