This is a little blurb from TIME Magazine written by David Henry Hwang about Shi Pei Pu (the real life basis for Song). When Hwang offered him a portion of the play’s royalties, Pu refused and instead demanded on having his own concert at Carnegie Hall. Hwang attributes Pu’s refusal to accept royalties and demand for a concert to his identity as a performer, something that is closely connected with the theme of power in M Butterfly. Pu wasn’t interested in the money. He was more interested in the power that comes from performing and acting. In the play, Song asserts power by deceiving Gallimard. However, I think that acting gives the performer a different kind of power in its ability to change the audience’s preconceived idea of truth. Theater is moving because is transforms our perception of truth and illusion. The actors may be playing roles, and the plot may not be factual, but for the time that the audience members are in their seats, they believe in the story. The actors on stage have the power to suck the audience into a feeling of truth that is based on illusion. They have to power to make people see a version of truth that isn’t necessarily founded on hard facts.
Look what I found! A commercial for the 1988 opening of M. Butterfly. Yes, it’s a little weird, but it’s interesting that this commercial chose to emphasize the connection that both Song and Gallimard are butterflies. I mean the commercial could’ve featured a love scene, or something more dramatic and less weird, but no. I personally like it though, since I’ve already read the book and it helps me visualize the transformation of Song. His character undergoes such a dramatic change that it was hard for me to actually imagine the same person playing both characters.
If I’d seen this ad on TV without context I would’ve just found it creepy though. Do you guys think this is an effective commercial?
even though we’re all done, I have a movie recommendation for a change of pace!
Looking for a story with an intense female Asian lead?
Violent. Profane. Great. Enjoy.
— jport (◡‿◡✿)
In our skype conversation with David Henry Hwang, he described how he is often inspired by other plays. This is evident not only in the structure of his play by having Song and Gallimard alternate by talking to the audience, but also in the basis of the story itself. We all know that M. Butterfly is mainly based off the opera Madame Butterfly, and that there is another play, Miss Saigon, also based of this same opera. The story of Miss Saigon parallels that of Madame Butterfly, except that it takes place in Vietnam instead of China, and analyzes the relationship between an American GI and a Vietnamese bar girl. The ability of the same plot line and ideas to be transferred across different works and be popular in all shows the versatility and relevancy of main themes and questions of love, imperialism, and strength that are brought up in the plays. This reminds me of the idea of romantic comedies that David Henry Hwang brought up in our conversation. He emphasized that they always follow the same plotline: a person at the beginning of the story does not believe in love and the same person at the end of the story suddenly believes in love- bringing up the idea that love is universal. About do you think about the same plotline being reused? What does this reveal about society and our interests in regards to media?
During the interview with David Henry Hwang someone asked about his decision to have the woman Gallimard has an affair with also called Rene. He replied that he wasn’t sure and just thought that it would be funny to call them both Rene. In previous classes, I remember trying to discuss the meaning of having two Renes and not completely being able to understand why the author decided to do this. After being able to actually talk to the author, I was really able to open my eyes to fact that things don’t always have meaning. This made me question the deep analyzing we have done of so many books and whether or not the meanings that we gleaned from our readings were truly meant by the author. I came to the conclusion that whether or not the author meant for us to read meaning into something, our own analyses are always valid. I felt like David Henry Hwang mentioned several times that he didn’t really understand what he had written and that it was truly up to the interpretation of the reader. Thus, each of our analyses of any piece of writing can be correct, as any text or work can truly be read in a plethora of different ways.
WOW GUYS I TOTALLY FORGOT TO POST THIS SONG WHILE WE WERE READING THINGS FALL APART
that was in all caps because it’s v important but WOW just listen to this song and try to tell me you don’t see any connections. Power of stories!! infinite fallibility of belief!! frank ocean!!
I hate when people write off rap. This is some seriously well thought out and powerful stuff. If rap isn’t your thing, cruise on over to RapGenius.com and learn about some of the context and meaning behind famous lyrics.
If nothing else, this song was in the trailer for The Great Gatsby (along with “Love Is Blindness” - Jack White [it’s SUCH a good song please look it up an enjoy]) and arguably MADE the hype for the movie, even though it basically hypes itself.
Hi everyone! I changed the blog avatar again. I think this is a still from the M. Butterfly movie with Jeremy Irons and John Lone, but I’m not sure. Just from looking at the IMDb page, the movie looks like it has the potential to be really good. But judging from the stage directions and the amount of audience interaction written into the play, I’m not sure if it will live up to the same great experience as it probably is to see live. Anyone know where I can see this play?
Apart from that, what if Westridge did this play? In a hypothetical situation, though. For the 8th grade play, Ozma of Oz, the line “Hot damn!” was edited out time and time again, so I doubt we’d be able to show “a second of her naked back” (26). Haaaaa. Like I was saying in class before, I just think the perspective of the all-girls school would be intriguing. A girl playing a man playing a woman? Theatre-ception.
BothApocalypse Now (which is based on Heart of Darkness) and M. Butterfly deal with Vietnam. The Vietnam war has become something that Americans are ashamed of, something that we still can’t quite understand and comprehend. Just as Americans in Vietnam didn’t know what they were fighting for or who the Vietnamese people were, Marlow doesn’t quite understand what he’s doing in the Congo, and Gallimard doesn’t know anything about the Chinese. Everything gets caught up in the blur of misunderstanding.
I think that sometimes, when we read works like HOD and M. Butterfly, we separate ourselves from what’s happening in the story without realizing. Placing the story in the midst of Vietnam somehow makes the story more relevant to us. It helps to diminish the tendency to regard the texts as mere fictional stories and diminish the gap between blur and understanding.
When Christie and I brought snacks when we led the discussion last class, we brought a container of fortune cookies because we felt that fortune cookies are a western stereotype of Chinese culture and food. And ironically enough, the concept of the fortune cookie is mentioned in Act II.
Song: We must conserve our strength for the battles we can win.
Gallimard: That sounds like a fortune cookie!
Song: Where do you think fortune cookies come from?
Gallimard: I don’t care. (65)
The answer to Song’s question is that fortune cookies are an American product created in California. Although fortune cookies are commonly given out at Chinese restaurants after a meal, the popularity of the fortune cookie has increased because of the consumption of westerners, which has led to the misbelief that fortune cookies are a native Chinese invention. The mentioning of the fortune cookie in the text continues to emphasize Gallimard’s ignorance of true Eastern culture as his ideas and opinions are skewed by Western beliefs. The fortune cookie is one of many examples of stereotypes that Hwang uses throughout the play in order to emphasize the different extremes and misconceptions that people of different cultures have of each other. What do you think is the purpose of stereotypes?
At the beginning of M. Butterfly we are introduced to the character Pinkerton as a womanizing misogynous, who says that he will have sex with his wife and then leave her (6). This book manipulates the action of seducing a woman and parallels it to the French foreign policy of colonizing Asia. It makes me think if womanizing has many colonizing-like qualities. It reverts back to my old post of colonization being like rape. What do you guys think?
There’s a quote that Song says that makes me mad. She’s explaining to Chin why men play roles in the Peking Opera, “Because only a man knows how a woman is supposed to act” (63).
This frustrates me so much. That only a man knows how a woman is SUPPOSED to act because its what the man wants and the men’s view of women that is important, not women themselves. And I see this constantly throughout the book, the role of men and women, men being a position of dominance and power. And the fact that Song is in fact a man complicates this whole idea because he is a man acting the part of a woman. And we see Gallimard searching for this power and wanting power over her. But I think that Song is in fact the one with more power in the relationship. He loves her regardless of what she does.
But also going off of what we talked about in class last time, these layers of plays and opera and acting. And it makes me think about how how much are these people just fulfilling characters and stereotypes, especially with what we discover about Song in this Act. But even before that. Are they really people and characters or are they just ideas, fulfilling these roles that are given to them and expected of them? Especially in the case of Gallimard.
We talked a little about his class, but I wanted to revisit the idea of power in the play. Throughout the first act, the reader can see that Gallimard desires and craves the power that he thinks he has over Song. This power he feels that he has when he states, “I felt for the first time that rush of power-the absolute power of man” (32).His association of power with man reminded me a lot of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart and even from the first reading it’s clear why we are reading M Butterfly following it. Okonkwo’s desire for power and affirmation of his manliness due to his father’s lack of “manliness” correlates with Gallimard’s desire for power after a life without love. The fact that Okonkwo’s desire for power is one of his greatest weaknesses and is part of what results in his down fall suggests that Gallimard similarly will be hurt by his desire for power. Due to the fact that the play is based on a real story and as readers, we can assume that the play ends similarly, we know that Gallimard’s desire for power causes him to become blind to the real world and begin living in a world of illusion and idealism.
I also found this recording of Toni Morrison reading part of Achebe’s essay, “English and the African writer.” Achebe’s essay discusses the definition of African literature—is it work created in Africa or about Africa? Should it encompass all of Africa? Should Heart of Darkness be classified as African literature? The essay is really fascinating and relates to a lot of the things about language and identity that we’ve been talking about in class. Also, it’s interesting to see how Achebe’s ideas influenced Morrison’s writing.
This is a recording of Achebe reading a part of Things Fall Apart (pgs. 133-135).Starting at 8:40, he reads two letters expressing different views of the song on page 135. The woman who wrote the first letter, Susan, finds solace in the prayer, “All will be well.” The woman who wrote the second letter, Zorica, has a deeper connection with the words, “There is no one for whom it is well” (135), a direct contrast to Susan’s faith. Zorica describes how Achebe’s words saved her life and helped her to see reason in the world. She writes, “having a great piece of literature that really shows how absurd and tough life can be is an amazing thing.” I think her statement points to why we read and discuss literature in the first place, and it made me think about how incredible power of language is in its ability to address ideas that are complex and sometimes illogical.
WARNING: LES MIS SPOILERS
Although if you haven’t watched it yet you probably don’t care.
So anyways. Inspector Javert=Okonkwo. IT’S PERFECT! Both men are scared of their past. Javert was born inside a jail and is the son of a prostitute, so he spent his whole life trying to leave behind his shame and prove that he’s better than his parents. Both men subsequently developed a black and white view of the world because of their goal of proving themselves worthy. Javert, disgusted by the criminals he grew up in jail with, dedicated his life to fight crime and was unable to see criminals as human beings who had the potential to change for the better. Same with Okonkwo, who, in his attempt to prove himself and his children as “manly”, was not able to find the middle ground between the ideas of forgiveness/mercy and courage. Both are seen at first as violent, “evil”, and unforgiving, but both are complicated individuals under their unbending facade. They are only seen as “bad” because of how extreme their actions were; in reality, Javert’s dedication to the law and Okonkwo’s desire to raise his sons to be strong, respected men were both good traits. And when their world fell apart around them, they both chose the same course of action.
Obviously, these two characters come from very different worlds, but it goes to show how people are not so different after all, regardless of race, culture, or even time periods.
LES MIS RELATES TO EVERYTHING