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The Neon Demon

Posted on March 3, 2017

Fairytale Imagery in The Neon Demon

Guest Post

Young girls in middle-of-nowhere European villages used to be told that if they were beautiful enough a Prince would find them, take them back to his castle, and they would live happily ever after. Change Europe for America, the stories for magazines, the Prince for an agent, the castle for Los Angeles. You now have the quintessentially American fairytale that is Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon (2016). (Even the “Neon” in the title could be an update of the colour typically used in the titles of fairytales.) Indeed, The Neon Demon is nothing less than a slick, sick modern fable laced through with the imagery of fairytales and myths. But these fantastic reference points have gone under the knife; disguised in Americana they are made fresh again.

Elle Fanning plays Jesse, a small town sixteen-year-old who has “It.” Whatever “It” is the audience can’t see, but when she moves to LA she’s the fairest in the land. She walks into the room and jaded agents turn their heads, everybody wants her; it’s almost preternatural. Naiveté and isolation put her at risk, she has no family, something strange is going on at her skeevy motel, and her closest friend wants more from her. When she falls in with a makeup artist, Ruby (Jena Malone), and her model friends she begins to embrace her beauty. But the beauty industry proves to be still more sinister.

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Posted on February 15, 2017

If Looks Could Kill: Beauty and Obsession in Black Swan and The Neon Demon

Guest Post

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.

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