Jeff Melin 2


To: Earl Jackson, Jr.

Re: M. Butterfly

Where’s Malcolm
in all of this? 

It just occurred to me that when I finished reading M Butterfly I thought,
„How interesting that it should be the man who turns out to be Butterfly
in this version.“ Of course it’s the man. They’re both men. What a queer
thought for me to have. I suppose that this proves your point, that the
western mind sees the Oriental as female, regardless of sex. I don’t like
to think that this is the case. I hope that I might be forgiven on the
grounds that Song is self-gendered as female throughout the majority of
the play. But perhaps I’m just a mindless dupe
of my culture.

I’m quite puzzled by your assertion in class today that Gallimard refuses
to see Song’s penis:



(He is down to his briefs) 

GALLIMARD: Please. This is unnecessary.
I know what you are. 

SONG: Do you? What am I? 

GALLIMARD: A–a man. 

SONG: You don’t really believe that. 

GALLIMARD: Yes I do! I knew all the time
somewhere that my happiness was temporary, my love a deception. But my
mind kept the knowledge at bay. To make the wait bearable. 

SONG: Monsieur Gallimard–the wait is over. 

Song drops his briefs. He is naked…. 

GALLIMARD: Oh god! What an idiot! Of

SONG: Rene–what? 

GALLIMARD: Look at you! You’re a man!Ý

M. Butterfly 87-88


Where in this scene does Gallimard refuse to see the penis? I do not
remember whether Jeremy Irons sees the penis or not (I too found the film
extremely forgettable), and I have not seen the play, but reading it gives
me no impression that Gallimard fails to recognize the penis.Ý 

Am I somehow blind to the obvious where butterflies are concerned? As
I mentioned in class today, it was not obvious to me that Cho-Cho-San was
dead at the end of Long’s novella.
Why does the maid bind the wound of a dead woman? In thinking about the
film, I believe that I found Gallimard’s death ambiguous as well, for the
reason that the film up to the end had been very realistic (if I remember
it correctly), but at the end Gallimard speaks to the audience and does
things that seem very unlikely to occur in a prison. The ending was so
surreal compared to the rest of the film that I had no idea if it was „reality“
or fantasy. The fact that I knew that the real subject of the story had
not killed himself added to my ambivalence. The death seems most concrete
to me in the play, M Butterfly, of any of the versions that I’m familiar
with, because Gallimard addresses the audience throughout, and thus this
does not lend a particularly surreal air to the ending. I can accept that
all versions end with death, but it’s only in M Butterfly, the play, that
I see it very clearly. 

Regardless of whether anyone dies or not, I think that the play works
much better than the film as a work of art. It is humorous, politically
incisive, and a pointed commentary on Madame Butterfly–none of which the
film is, save perhaps a bit of the latter. 


Fascinating reading this week, which did, in fact, make your thesis
regarding the east/west gender issue much easier to understand.


To  Jeff Masuda’s Firest Response
[ M. Butterfly 87-88]