Black Swan Beautiful – or Dangerous?

[image via]

I’m having a hard time reading this article in Vogue about Natalie Portman’s training regimen and transformation for her role in Black Swan.

I don’t disagree with core strength, awareness, beauty and elegance. Mary Helen Bowers, the woman Portman trained with and the creator of the Ballet Beautiful program talks about the physique to which her students aspire:

“The body type is strong. It’s muscular, but the muscles are very long and lean and there is something that’s very elegant about the body, and also very powerful,” she says.

But isn’t there also something dangerous? Mila Kunis talks about how her training and weight loss for the film left her feeling, well, gross. She lost 20 lbs for the role, dwindling to a mere 95 lbs.

“In real life, I looked disgusting, but in photographs and on film, it looked amazing.” [via]

Yikes. I’m glad Kunis says this out loud because even though the pain of training is apparent in the film, and is being discussed in the press, I still feel like there’s this underlying tide of: but don’t they look beautiful?

And that’s what this Ballet Beautiful article talks about too. Train hard, intensely, unforgivably and you, too, can look beautiful. The tagline on the site reads: Artistic. Athletic. Attainable.

Yoga is not ballet. We are not taught to train or restrict for the sake of achieving a certain body type. And, to be honest, I don’t mean to suggest that ballet is a particularly vain pursuit. I simply don’t know enough about it to say that. It is an art, but one that has the surface-workings of painful ego-addiction.

In yoga, we are encouraged to let go of ego all together. But all the tools for vain self-destruction are there: rigorous dedication, cleanses, diets, austerities. The superficial practices – when coupled with the beautiful bodies we see bending and twisting on the pages of magazines – can serve to feed the ego, too.

I don’t have a final word on all of this. I’m not saying that this film is doing women a disservice, or that Yoga Journal is twisting our minds. I’m just aware of my own feelings when I read this article.

Ostensibly, the press coverage is not congratulatory about the rigors of training and weight loss these women undertook for the roles they play in this film. And yet, somehow, I still feel an undercurrent of it. Is it because I can feel the push and pull, the attraction and repulsion of this kind of physique myself?

Is the suggestion there – that this is an acceptable ideal for women – or is it just my sensitivity? Is anyone else feeling it?