Spoiler alert: This blog post contains spoilers. You’ve been warned!
A hidden gem, The Neon Demon portrays themes of youth, pureness and glamour in addition to how far people are willing to go to achieve these things. One of the iconic phrases from the film is, “Beauty isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Not only does The Neon Demon have a phenomenal plot, it features orgasmic imagery, color and cinematography.
The plot follows an orphaned, underage girl named Jesse who recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in modelling. Upon arriving in LA, Jesse meets a makeup artist who introduces her to the local social life where she meets two other models. Jesse quickly realizes that her career in modelling may not be everything she imagined, in fact, it’s far more sinister. The Neon Demon movie was created, directed and written by Nicolas Winding Refn. The Neon Demon cast members include Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee. To many people’s surprise, Keanu Reeves and Christina Hendricks play supporting roles in this film. The Neon Demon analysis can be found below.
In the opening scene, Jesse, played by Elle Fanning, is being photographed by a man named Dean. The graphic color of the set and the glossy blood on her neck immediately captures audiences. A little farther into the film, Jesse attends a party that Ruby, played by Jena Malone, invites her to, where Gigi and Sarah, played by Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee, are also present. In the bathroom, the women are applying lipstick and freshening up. Ruby says, “They say women are more likely to buy a lipstick if it’s named after food or sex. Just think about it. Black honey, plum passion, peachy keen…” When Jesse doesn’t say anything, Ruby asks her directly if she’s food or sex, which she doesn’t answer. However, Gigi implies that she’s dessert because “she’s so sweet.” Viewers may not realize it initially, but The Neon Demon is explained in this scene in terms of plot and theme. Following this conversation, the four women watch a techno and BDSM show. The imagery of a naked, tied up person being bent backwards implies that a ritual of conformity and submission is happening.
Jesse finds out that she’s got the “IT factor” pretty quickly. Gigi and Sarah become envious, particularly when Ruby takes Jesse’s side. A modelling agency representative tells her that she is perfect and provides her with an impressive photoshoot opportunity where Jesse ends up being the lead model. At this moment, Jesse falls in love with herself which is absolutely symbolic of what our culture can do to captivating women when they realize they’re desirable. Once a true part of her persona, Jesse begins to lean into the naivete that was once natural and automatic for her. After a disturbing experience at the motel she’s staying at, Jesse phones Ruby and decides to stay with her. Ruby tries to become intimate with Jesse, but Jesse declines. At this moment, Ruby realizes that Jesse is not going to be sex, she’s going to be food. Along with Sarah and Gigi, they literally devour Jesse and consume her beauty, youth and innocence. By absorbing Jesse’s essence, they enter the spotlight of the modelling industry again.
The Neon Demon represents society’s obsession with juvenescence, glamour and naivete. As people stray from these things with age, they become jaded, undesirable and bitter — or rather this is how society perceives them to be. To obtain the epitome of society’s standards, people must do increasingly intense, perhaps even expensive, things to encapsulate the golden standard. Jesse was the ultimate model because she was only 16, fresh and innocent, even when she fell in love with herself. But Gigi and Sarah were old news, one of which went to the “body shop” to completely change her appearance. When they literally consume Jesse, it’s a symbol of how society consumes charisma and attempts to become it, even when they’re far from it.
Interested in more? Check out The Neon Demon Screen Facts.