Monday, November 17, 2008

M. Butterfly

I created this blog over a year ago. Back then I had high dreams of being able to get up every morning and 5:30 and writing til I had said something that was worth reading. That did not happen. So, in a fit of guilt, I have decided to set a much more reasonable goal for myself: Writing at least once a day. Writing of any sort. Poems (that illusive and yet delicious form of literature), Essays, Short Stories, Wild Thoughts, or even just a sentence using a word I find interesting. As I'm sure that hardly anyone will read this blog (which is so awesomely named...any guesses as to where the title comes from?), it is mostly for my benefit. Praises be to you, dear reader, if you find something hidden within my writing.

M. Butterfly is a play. Simple. And yet not so much. I have never read a play that has messed with my head more than that play. Just so you aren't lost here is a run down of what happens:

Man goes to China. Man sees a pretty girl. Man has an affair with pretty girl for twenty years. Girl steals secrets from man. Man is thrown in jail. Pretty girl is actually a man.

Yes you read that last sentence right; Pretty girl is actually a man.

Now, this presents so many different issues that I can barely keep them all in my head. The first one being, HOW COULD HE NOT KNOW?! After we get over the initial shock the next issue that we must deal with is whether or not the two really loved each other. Could these two men have fallen in love, under the guise of a false act? Can it be possible that love can grow between two people who are untruthful to each other? Of course the answer is yes, people do it all the time. Then the question is if a man can dress up as a woman and earn the love of other man what does that mean for Heterosexual relationships?

The next issue at hand is the question of gender. After playing a woman for twenty years is Song a man or a woman? True she/he has all the parts needed to be a man, she/he is a complete physical male, but what does that mean for his/her gender? If gender is a performance then isn't Song a female? If gender is something we are taught then did someone teach Song how to be female? If gender is something we are born with then is Song just a dude that likes to dress up? All of these issues are brought up in the play and question our response to the "defined" roles of tradational Men and Women.


Anne HIll said...

M Butterfyl....
A tragic love story.
Don't think that Song is not only creating a deceptive smoke screen, but also fufilling her own fantasy in the process. She plays the womans role so well that she becomes the "perfect" oreintal woman! Being taught gender roles is done in the home, since we know nothing about Song prior to this affair we can only seculate that she was a feminine boy. One who perhaps stayed in the house with his mother rather than out doing wht ever it is that oriental boys do....
Just a thought! M

Olsen Potter said...

That's true Mickey; however, we are given a hint of what Song's childhood was like in one line of the play. The issue with this line is that we have no idea whether what s/he is saying is true because could just be an act. Let's examine the line just because I'm sitting here without anyone to tutor and I am having so much fun writing crap loads of stuff about almost nothing. To the point:
"Song: I am your treasure. Though inexperienced. I am not...ignorant. They teach us things, our mothers, about pleasing a man." (I.xiii). If this line is true then Song was taught by his mother how to please another man, rising him to be a homosexual. I think that this line is a lie, a reinforcing the cliche that Gallimard so ardently believes. The perfect woman would be a virgin but still know how to please her man. It's a very intriguing line, but doubtless that it's true.