NINA SAYERS


(Black Swan)

What’s the Matter with Her?
Nina suffers from a type of Schizophrenia. She loses touch with reality, experiencing hallucinations that she is having sex with a beautiful colleague (Awesome) to ones that convince her she is turning into a swan (…Less Awesome).

Paranoid Schizophrenia
A subtype of schizophrenia, a paranoid designation means that Nina believes people are out to do her harm, and that she sees and hears things that are not real.

*Preoccupation with delusions
When Nina believes that her new friend Lily is trying to take her place as the Swan Queen, she panics; Thomas appointing Lily as Nina’s alternate only exacerbates Nina’s turmoil.

Even though Lily tries several times to befriend Nina, Nina accuses Lily of manipulating her way into the spotlight, when the only person in Nina’s life actually trying to sabotage her moment is Nina’s clingy mother.

*Frequent auditory hallucinations
A little more difficult to discern are Nina’s auditory hallucinations. She hears girls laughing at her when they probably are not, such as after she first begins her performance. Nina’s hallucinations grow more sinister as she gets closer to her debut. From seeing her own face on passersby to believing she is turning into a swan, Nina’s stress levels raise and so does the number and intensity of her hallucinations.

Delusions vs. Hallucinations
Nina with Red Eyes
Since Nina suffers from both, it seems appropriate to highlight the difference between hallucinations and delusions.
Delusions are false beliefs or perceptions that don’t relate to someone’s culture or religion. Nina believes that Lily is trying to steal her role; there is no valuable evidence to support that this is true, but as Nina has the lead role, her belief is not hard to justify. What makes Nina’s delusion seem plausible is her own anxiety (And her mom).
Hallucinations are assaults on the five senses; someone might hear, see, smell, taste or feel things that are not real.
In a nutshell (Help, I’m in a nutshell!), delusions are bizarre ways a person thinks; hallucinations are when someone seems to experience something that is not really happening.

Incest
Nina and Her Mother
On the surface, this topic might not appear to have anything to do with this movie…but it does.
Nina’s mother’s behavior is a little inappropriate to only be classified as “overbearing.” She sabotages Nina’s performances; she calls 28 year-old Nina her “sweet girl;” she interrogates Nina about her sex life, and reacts angrily when Nina confesses to sexual encounters that are normal for someone her age (And are none of her mom’s business).
The implication of course is that Nina has been molested by her mother for awhile, and that the black swan part of her personality might in fact be out of reach because it requires Nina to face what her mother has done to her. This makes it very hard for Nina to get in touch with normal sexual feelings, even when her director tries to force them out of her.
Nina and Thomas
Studies have shown that victims of sexual abuse are more likely to develop severe psychiatric disorders than non-victims, so Nina’s situation makes more sense if we consider the possibility that her mother has been controlling Nina with abuse for a long time.

A Perfect Problem

Nina’s perfectionist attitude toward her dancing is fairly common with many anxiety disorders. Her sense of control over her technique is probably Nina’s of way of coping with what happens between her and her mother.
When someone is thrown into difficult circumstances like Nina, a way to compensate for a lack of control felt in an aspect of their life might be to control another aspect. Dancers are typically taught to have a sharp sense of discipline over their bodies, so it makes sense that someone with Nina’s perception of discipline would gravitate toward this profession.
Unfortunately, being perfect is impossible when you are human, so when people put a constant pressure on themselves for such control, there are often dire consequences. In Nina’s case, losing a little control has a snowball effect on her life – she loses a little control, and then she loses all of it.

What Do You Think?
Nina Many Times
Black swan or white, share your thoughts with us!

5 thoughts on “NINA SAYERS

    • Moses, speaking from experience, Nina was definitely sexually abused by her mother Erica, which she does every night after Nina is in bed. Erica guises her actions towards Nina as ‘affection and motherly love/concern’, which, of course, it is not. She does this out of fear of losing the one thing that keeps her safe, fed and secure, so, she holds on to Nina tighter and tighter as Nina keeps getting more and more successful. Success and confidence in Nina means freedom from her mother, and Erica, at all costs, tries to thwart every effort that Nina makes to escape from from her but she just won’t let Nina go under any circumstances, even if it means the cost of Nina losing her mind, her career, her soul and her life…

  1. So, so true! You hit the nail right on the head! I think Incest is at the heart of Nina’s alienation with the rest of humanity – especially interactions with her colleagues. Having been a victim of incest, myself, I now know that sexual abuse is a form on ‘total’ control or possession of the victim’s will/persona. Erica (Nina’s mother) gives Nina NO PRIVACY, and intrudes into every aspect of Nina’s life. In Nina’s case, her Mother, Erica, lives vicariously through Nina, because of her own failure with her dance career, and by becoming pregnant, this is her way of not ‘losing face’, with her own colleagues, because deep down Erica KNEW she didn’t have it in her being to excel as a Prima Ballerina, and so Nina became the ‘ticket’ to her success. Ironically, the closer Nina comes to success, the further and further away she seems to her mother, and so Erica’s grip on Nina becomes even tighter, and she does everything in her power to sabotage Nina’s career and her personal life, without totally destroying it- this is the key to Erica’s power and control, as she keeps Nina tightly bound, dependent and working – without any glimmer of fame or glory, or self-realization, thus ensuring Erica’s own security – after all, Erica is a ‘kept’ woman – Nina supports her financially and in other ways. One wonder’s what Erica does all day while Nina is working very hard at her Ballet. Erica paints – lurid self-portraits and distorted paintings of Nina and spends her time gossiping with Suzy in Human Resources for Nina’s Ballet Company.

    Lily seems to be a ‘trigger’ point – she IS what Nina has repressed inside of herself for so long. Slowly – it starts seeping out of her personality and SHAKES her to her very core! Lily is manipulative, deceptive, cunning, opportunistic, and has a raw, animalistic sexuality – Lily is willing to do ANYTHING to get whatever she wants and desires, without guilt or any consequences to others.

    When Nina finally becomes so obsessed in playing the role of her career, she becomes the embodiment of the Black Swan Queen and undergoes a dramatic metamorphosis from the White Swan – good, pure, virginal, repressed Nina, who tries to please everyone, to the Black Swan, who is evil, self-possessed, and lives by her own set of rules to which the World (and everyone around her) is not privy and to who it does not apply in any sense.

    In my opinion, when Nina ‘dies’ at the end and she sees a bright, white light getting stronger and stronger until it encompasses everything, she ‘dies’ to her old self and merges with the White Swan/Black Swan, and is finally integrated as a whole person, which is why during the final scene where the White Swan jumps off the cliff, Nina for a brief moment, glances into the audience and sees her mother, who is weeping, and at that moment, Erica KNOWS that Nina is free and no longer under her control, so by Nina losing total control of her mind, she ‘finds’ total control of herself/her life, by succeeding in her greatest triumph – the integration/merging of the
    Black and the White. You can’t have all Light without some Darkness, lurking in the background of your soul. It is that precarious counterbalance, that makes us Human and compels us to seek perfection, as fleeting and distant as it may be.

    By the way, very few people caught the ‘incest’ part. Most people who watched ‘BLACK SWAN’, just thought that Nina was crazy and delusional without any cause. I am SO impressed by you, that you got that! BRAVO(A) to you!!!

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