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Black Swan: The Controversial Sex Scene Between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, Is it Inappropiate?

Updated on August 15, 2011

Several posters from the movie

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The (in)famous lesbian sex scene in Academy Awards nominee film Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky, between Nina (Natalie Portman) and Lilly (Mila Kunis) has stirred some controversy regarding the reasons for being explicit. Is it needed at all? If you, why does it have to be relatively explicit? If you think its only purpose is to attract moviegoers, you should keep reading. There are artistical and narrative reasons for both why the scene shows what it does, and why it's even there in the first place. If this was just a random scene with no purpose whatsoever other than make people go watch the movie it'd be gratuitous, but it's not the case. Plus, one scene that you could just google later is not going to make people (mostly men) pay to watch two thirds of a dark psychological drama centered about a ballerina dancer who has insecurity issues and lives with her oppressing mother, just to see literally a 2 minutes (not that explicit) sex scene. But enough about the scene, let's see why it fits with the rest of the film.But beware:


I hate spoilers and I wouldn't want to ruin this movie for anyone, so if you haven't seen it you can watch the trailer here, but don't scroll down past this video until you've seen the movie.

There are two reasons for this scene

One is why it happens, and two is why it's explicit.

Nina starts off as a girl too shy for her age,who's used to seeing herself through her mother's eyes as a sweet little girl. The whole arch of Natalie Portman's character is based around how that view of herself is stopping her in her career as a ballet dancer to achieve her full potential. She must acknowledge her shadow, her 'black swan'. As the story progresses Nina learns to push the boundaries of this prison that is herself. She's basically her own worst enemy, lots of the conspiracies and threats she sees around her are in fact only in her mind, as you will see later. Nina's night out with Lilly is her first step into knowing her darker side. This scene, which you can see in the video to the right, starts with her ignoring and disobeying her mom, follows them to a bar in which after resisting and rejecting Lilly's offer to "live a little", she finally gives in and takes some ecstasy. The mood starts climbing up in intensity as the drug kicks into her system, and they start dancing, keeps raising when she finds herself passionately kissing a guy she just met, until finally she goes back home with Lilly and argues with her mom. She takes her friend to her room despite her mother's complaints, locks the door, and without rest from the heat of the fight, they kiss, undress each other and end up in bed.

The scene in question

During the scene, although she seems to enjoy it, Nina keeps seeing Lilly as herself, or rather, as her dark self. Furthermore, she has some creepy illusion of Lilly's tattoo of two black wings on her back, coming to life.

The two actresses were friends prior to the movie and in fact, Natalie recommeneded Mila for the role of Nina's rival.
The two actresses were friends prior to the movie and in fact, Natalie recommeneded Mila for the role of Nina's rival.

Few hours ahead and morning comes. Nina finds herself alone in her bed, confused, she notices the door is not locked, suggesting Lilly just left, since it was locked from the inside.

As you can see, the scene is only the culmination of a series of events leading to the main's character most wild and dark moment in the movie so far. Lilly's character helps Nina free herself from her mother and stand up to her, which will be crucial later. It is more significant when noticing the fact that they had sex in her house, in her room, in her pink 'sweet innocent girl'' bed

Sometimes hinting is not enough

So by now you should understand why indeed it is an integral part of the story that this two dancing partners sleep together. But why does it have to be explicit? Why can't they do like Hitchcock and move the camera away as they get into bed? For one, movies that don't display sex at all, or barely hint at it, are stories in which the character's sexual experiences are not crucial to their behavior and the plot.

Also, because a scene like that lacks something essential to this movie: impact. Not sales impact, psychological impact. Watching the scene can make you uncomfortable, it can turn you on or it can repulse you, but chances are you won't be left indifferent and you will certainly remember it.

Black Swan has been nominated in the Academy Awards for:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actress in a Lead Role, Natalie Portman
  • Best Director, Darren Aronofsky
  • Best Cinematography, Matthew Libatique
  • Best Editing, Andrew Weisblum

In addition to that, Natalie Portman has won a Golden Globe and several other awards for her performance.

The twist

So the reason the scene needs to be explicit and leave a mark in you is because of what happens next:

Nina, after that passionate night, late for a rehearsal because her mom didn't wake her up, confronts Lilly asking her why she left that morning. Lilly, evidently clueless, says she spend the night with a guy, and starts teasing Nina about fantasizing with her. Nina couldn't be more confused, and we, as an audience, share that feeling. This increasing recurrence and intensity of Nina's illusions are significant to the story, and are crucial to the ending of the film.
If the scene hadn't been "explicit" (it could have been much more, specially being a Darren Aronofsky film, like some in Requiem for a Dream), there would be no peak after the exotic night Nina spent at the club, and without that peak, nothing to recall when we find out it only happened in Nina's mind.

You can be as prude as you like, there are many countless examples of gratuitous, irrelevant and explicit sex scenes in movies put there just to attract the audiences, but this is not one of them.

Buy Black Swan and other Darren Aronofsky films


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    • spookyfox profile image

      spookyfox 4 years ago from Argentina

      Jylavik, I was going to delete your comment but I think I'll let the world see how judgmental you are. I'm sorry to break this to you but no one cares what you think of Natalie Portman. I'm not her biggest fan but your reason for the dislike is as lame as it gets, sex is not filthy, and you're not contributing anything.

    • profile image

      Jylavik 4 years ago

      The scene in the film made me want to vomit. I no longer have any respect for Natalie Portman, she is not a real actress. She is basically doing porn, just getting paid more for it. And yes, I "got" the reason why the scenes were in the film. Natalie Portman is filthy and I will never see another of her movies again.

    • profile image

      JAL 6 years ago

      There are many countless examples of gratuitous, irrelevant and explicit sex scenes in movies put there just to attract the audiences, AND THIS IS ONE OF THEM.

      Even Natalie Portman said that scene was in the movie only to gain ticket sales.

    • spookyfox profile image

      spookyfox 6 years ago from Argentina

      Thanks for the comment :) I didn't catch it at the cinema because it was released late where I live, and I couldn't wait.

    • silverlungs profile image

      silverlungs 6 years ago

      Brilliant hub. Black Swan is one of my favourite films, I was in complete awe after I seen it at the cinema.

    • lovebuglena profile image

      Lena Kovadlo 7 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      Great hub. I saw Black Swan. Found it confusing at times and couldn't tell if what was happening to Nina was real or just in her mind. I did not expect for there to be a sex scene between Nina and Lilly so I was shocked when it came on. I won't say it grossed me out. It was just weird to see is all. I had no idea that this sex scene was controversial.

      Black Swan was one hell of a movie and I think Natalie Portman deserved the Oscar win for best actress.

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 7 years ago

      Interesting read and more room for thoughts. I never thought it was controversial.

    • spookyfox profile image

      spookyfox 7 years ago from Argentina

      No, I don't think so! As I pointed out, there are much more explicit scenes in other movies, even much older. That's mainly the reason I wrote this hub, because I couldn't understand how some people thought it was so explicit its only purpose was controversy. I thought it was done tastefully and according to the spirit of the movie.

    • deblipp profile image

      deblipp 7 years ago

      Do you think the scene was really that explicit? I mean, you knew exactly what was happening but there was no nudity.

    • spookyfox profile image

      spookyfox 7 years ago from Argentina

      I rarely dance, but I am a musician, and I think Tchaikovsky fits perfectly with his love and fate themes and the duality. I don't really get what the fuzz is all about, there are much explicit scenes in countless movies, some much older. And more disturbing in the movie itself. I think it's mostly the fact that both acresses were very famous prior to the film.

    • Eric Prado profile image

      Eric Prado 7 years ago from Webster, Texas

      I thought the movie Black swan was absolutely awesome. Being a dancer myself, I really related to the light and dark side of dance as well as the duality of the personas we tend to have to portray in performance and in the studio. I also thought the scene in question was brilliantly done for the sake of going so far with one's dark side.

    • spookyfox profile image

      spookyfox 7 years ago from Argentina

      I'm glad you enjoyed, and I agree, the music was great, it helped a lot with the film's darkness and mood.

    • ladyjane1 profile image

      ladyjane1 7 years ago from Texas

      Great hub and I love your insightful thoughts on this movie. I really enjoyed all the twists and the drama, the music was also amazing. Thanks for adding my hub as a link here and I shall do the same with yours. Cheers and thanks again.

    • spookyfox profile image

      spookyfox 7 years ago from Argentina

      Thanks for the comment Cogerson. It certainly leaves room for thought and interpretation.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 7 years ago from Virginia

      Great are right about the morning after....we were confused as she was....I love when a movie makes me think....voted up