Queerness In M. Butterfly

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Using queerness as a lens of which to read Typical American by Gish Jen and David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly, one can begin to examine the layers of identity in the Western perception of Asians and Asian immigration to the U.S. Though these authors take differing approaches to discussing queerness—queerness is the subtext of Jen’s novel while it is the main focus of Hwang’s play—they both critique the heteronormativity and gender binary and queerness’ intersection with America. This essay will discuss the impact heteronormativity then character’s interactions with the concept of gender. Heteronormativity encompasses several issues these writers grapple with: compulsory monogamy and heterosexuality as the only option for relationships. On the…show more content…
Butterfly, on the other hand, uses gender and racialization in a combative way. When reading Song as male (problematic and will be refuted later), Hwang counters Madame Butterfly’s submissive and feminine stereotype of the East. The final scene is a reversal of this notion, in which the West is killing herself for the male East. However, reading Song as a man and Gallimard as gay deprives Song of her femininity. Though Hwang refers to Song with he/him pronouns in the afterword, modern lenses of gender and sexuality can be used to describe Song as transgender or genderqueer. The reading of M. Butterfly in which Song is a genderqueer femme person gives the play a depth and relevance to the modern audience because, like the audience, the character is diverging from the cultural gender binary. (Of course, this is not to say genderqueer people did not exist before current time rather it has become more publicly accepted in larger Western culture in recent years.) Song exemplifies the notion that all gender is performative. Though Song rejects the gender binary, Gallimard clings to it. In his death, he dons Butterfly 's robes, unable to accept a male/male relationship (he sees Song as a man). This shows the heteronormativity and orientalism Gallimard has bought into. Many readers claim Gallimard is gay, and internalized homophobia drives him to suicide. This can be true as well as the reading that Song is a woman. One of the themes of the play is how lovers fall in love or have sex with only their perception of their lover, meaning one never really knows their lover. The image of Song Gallimard has, in the end, is a man. This in no way means that Song is a
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