Masculinity, Femininity, and the Western Rape Mentality in "M. Butterfly"
As its title suggests, "M. Butterfly" is essentially a play about metamorphosis. It is, firstly, the metamorphosis of Giacomo Puccini's famous opera "Madame Butterfly" into a modern-day geopolitical argument for cultural understanding. Author David Henry Hwang shows, through a highly implausible love affair between a French diplomat and the male Chinese opera singer he believes to be a woman, how the failure to separate desire from reality can result in deception and tragedy. Less obviously, "M. Butterfly" alludes to the literal metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Gallimard transforms Song from "just a man" into "the Perfect Woman" (Hwang 88, 4). Due to his insecurity about his own masculinity, Gallimard needs to create Song in the image of the perfect Asian woman - exotic, sensual, and acquiescent - in order to feel wholly male. Though he seeks to confine Song within the context of his fantasy, Gallimard's vulnerability and need actually free Song by providing her with an outlet to flee the Orientalist representation of Asian people. Gallimard transforms Song into a butterfly, but instead of transforming him into "a butterfly who would writhe on a...
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