You are Food or You are Sex: Is The Neon Demon Cinematic Porn for the Male Id?
A review and informal analysis of The Neon Demon
Written by Art Director John Luckas
Nicolas Winding Refn is certainly not without his quirks. His most recent film, The Neon Demon, has brought to surface what are likely his most intimate personal curiosities. On multiple occasions during the press junket for The Neon Demon, Refn has claimed that within every grown man is a sixteen-year-old girl. Albeit an unsettling statement at first, it is clearly an honest, carefully considered one. Accompanying this admission is usually Elle Fanning, who plays the film's lead (Jesse), to explain her first meeting with Refn. They met at his home, strewn with princess dresses and the song “Let it Go” from Frozen playing in the background (Refn is married and has two daughters). Refn at some point during the meeting asked her, “Do you think you’re beautiful?” Yeah, I felt uncomfortable too. It’s a personal question, arguably an aggressive one. How can you answer honestly? There are too many ways to deconstruct an individual’s answer. And most would avoid giving an answer to leave at least some semblance of modesty. Refn has a point to make though, and he needs people who can play along with his idiosyncrasies. That point being, why do we— yes the collective we— care about beauty? Why do we hold beauty and aesthetics above everything else, particularly in social and interpersonal contexts?
I must admit— the desire to experience being deified for one’s own beauty has interested me for some time, likely since puberty formed a sense of sexual identity and its subsequent reflections and affectations. The thought has changed since that early stage of puberty. In childhood it was much more vain and geared towards an obsession with feminine beauty and all the privileges that a pubescent boy believed beauty dictated and conferred. Later it became a true disdain for those I could never emulate, those I could never associate with, because deified beauty inherently dictates class structures, both real and imagined. With age I learned, and hopefully most people come to realize, that beauty deified is poison, a specter of mistrust and angst towards the unattainable.
In one of the most poignant scenes of the film, Sarah (Abbey Lee Kershaw), asks, “What does it feel like, to walk into a room and it’s like in the middle of winter, you’re the sun?”
“It’s everything”, Jesse replies delicately.
As the film aims to point out, “It” has always been everything to the fashion industry. “It” is everything to a generation of Instagram users. Refn recognizes this hoping that the demographic will be drawn to his film like a moth to a flame. And with any luck, viewers will learn what danger they’ve put themselves in or be burned by their fabricated surreality.
The soundtrack to The Neon Demon is now available via digital, CD, and vinyl formats. The Neon Demon will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD on September 27th.
Contact John by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.