Stereotypes in M. Butterfly

1569 Words7 Pages
The issue of cultural stereotypes and misconceptions thematically runs throughout David Henry Hwang’s play M. Butterfly. The play is inspired by a 1986 newspaper story about a former French diplomat and a Chinese opera singer, who turns out to be a spy and a man. Hwang used the newspaper story and deconstructed it into Madame Butterfly to help breakdown the stereotypes that are present between the East and the West. Hwang’s play overall breaks down the sexist and racist clichés that the East-West have against each other that reaffirm the Western male culture ideas. The stereotypes presented in the play revolve around the two main characters, Gallimard and Song. The play itself begins in the present with Gallimard, a French diplomat who has been incarcerated in a Beijing prison. He relives his fantasies for the past with his perfect woman and shares his experience with the readers throughout the remainder of the play. Upon Gallimard’s arrival in China, he attends the opera and meets Song, and Gallimard immediately describes Song as his “butterfly”. Gallimard falls in love with the “delicate Oriental woman” that Song portrays (22). He then buys into the Western male stereotype that Eastern women need protection by strong, masculine Western men. Gallimard ends up falling in love with Song and has an affair with her to fulfill the stereotypical idea of a dominant Western male controlling an Eastern woman. Throughout Gallimard’s relationship with Song, the readers discover that Song is in reality a male spy for the Chinese government. Song had manipulated his looks and actions to mirror those of the ideal Chinese woman in order to earn Gallimard’s affection. M. Butterfly’s main issue arises from the cultural stereotypes of the masculin...

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...the female and male gender across cultures. This role can cause problems when mistaking a male for a female much like Gallimard did in the play. Everyone from children, to the media, creates stereotypes. Stereotypes corrupt members of society, compelling them to view cultures and gender unfairly. Societies must eliminate the amount of stereotypes that are being distributed to various cultural around the world. Stereotypes are powerful, limiting, and discriminatory, and they prevent people from understanding other cultures fully. Without the demolition of stereotypical ideas, cultures that stereotype others will not see the differences between the stereotypical ideas and the real ideas of a culture.

Works Cited

Hwang, David Henry. M. Butterfly:"Afterword." New York City: Penguin, 1998. 94-100.

Hwang, David Henry. M. Butterfly. New York: Penguin Group, 1989.
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