The tortured artist, in which an artist or performer seems willing to sacrifice almost anything to achieve perfection, is a common trope in film. Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky, and The Neon Demon, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, are two films of the past decade that capture the horrors of attempting to achieve perfection in a culture obsessed with beauty.
Check out the trailer for The Neon Demon.
The Neon Demon (2016) brings the viewer into the modeling world of LA through our fish-out-of-water character, Jesse, played by Elle Fanning. She harnesses true, natural beauty and allure—the “it factor”—which could rocket her to modelling stardom. Upon her arrival in this new world, Jesse is confronted by three women who embody different types of beauty: Ruby, a make-up artist who bestows beauty; Gigi, the manufactured beauty who flaunts her plastic surgeries as accomplishments; and Sarah, the aging beauty who recognizes her time in the spotlight will soon end. Almost inevitably, Jesse falls down the rabbit hole of modeling and becomes the titular neon demon, the self-obsessed model: she embraces her own allure in a striking scene that echoes Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection.