M. Butterfly

Power is Sexy: The Politics of Racial Fantasy in M. Butterfly

In both society and literature, fetishes and sexual fantasies constantly find themselves rooted in racial differences. The philosophical concept of the “other” is one that addresses the idea of fetishization, in that we find ourselves idealizing and fantasizing about that which we are not; that is, racial and sexual fantasy become intertwined in the fetish, where racial discrepancies dictate sexual desire. The fetish usually involves some sort of inherent power struggle, where the person being fetishized is reduced to a mere object of sexual desire and the person with the fetish is in a position of creation or control, shaping the fantasy as he or she sees fit. Though David Henry Hwang’s play M. Butterfly may initially appear to disavow traditional notions of power struggle surrounding the fetish and racial fantasy, the politics of power remain an integral facet of the fetish. Hwang’s protagonist, Rene Gallimard, develops a politic and hierarchy concerning racial fantasy based on a fetishized mythology of Asian women and his ability—whether it be perceived or actual—to exercise sexual and patriarchal power over Song.

The narrative of M. Butterfly may initially seem unconventional because Song is aware of Gallimard’s fetishes...

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