Butterfly, butterfly : ideals, intrigue and cross-cultural contacts

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Horton, Marvin D.
Trimmer, Joseph F.
Issue Date
Thesis (M.A.)
Department of English
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Madame Butterfly is analyzed as a cultural icon. Puccini s Madaina Butterfly and the Butterfly icon, i.e. the submissive Oriental beauty who cannot live after her Western lover betrays her, permeate Western stereotypes of Eastern culture. Through this mindset, miscommunication develops. This concept was popularized in David Henry Hwang's play M. Butterfly, which builds upon Puccini's opera. Through the character's misperceptions of each other, the opera's tragic ending is repeated in Hwang's play after the French diplomat Gallimard realizes that his ideal woman is actually a male spy. Traditions regarding homosexuality and cross-dressing help Song to create Gallimard's feminine ideal. The theater contributes through tan and onnagata roles where men are trained to create perfect feminine illusions. These stereotypes are problematic because they do not allow for the complexities that exist in the theater, on film, and in actual events. Through increased sensitivity and awareness, individuals can see past the stereotypes to see other's complexities.