Lucía Puenzo’s film XXY begs to question what jurisdiction parents have over the gender identity of their children, by crafting an unorthodox coming-of-age tale of a 15-year-old hermaphrodite by the name of Alex. Her father, Kraken is put in the uncomfortable position of hosting Ramiro, a plastic surgeon, after Kraken’s wife invites them over in hopes of convincing him to operate on Alex. Soon enough, Alex finds herself romantically involved with Alvaro, Ramiro’s son. Ramiro is referred to as a “butcher” by Alex, a comment that Alvaro does not approve of. However, as the film progresses, we learn more about Alvaro’s own sexual uncertainties, and begin to understand that Ramiro’s inherent homophobia has caused Alvaro to have lost touch with his father.
The statement that XXY ultimately makes is that the seemingly “normal” family (Alvaro, Ramiro and his wife Erika) is far more dysfunctional than Alex’s. Ramiro’s profession is objectively not like that of a “butcher”, because he performs operations based on consent. However, his personality, especially from the perspective of Alvaro is far more sinister. Ramiro symbolically butchers the familial bond between him and his son near the end of the film, when Ramiro tells Alvaro that he “will never have the talent that he has” and that he was “worried that he was a fag”.
Erika is presented as more passive in her bond with Alvaro. What stands out is that she never stands up to support her son. When Erika and Ramiro’s wife, Suli are preparing dinner, Suli cuts herself while chopping a carrot. The representation of this phallic symbol is important because Suli technically doesn’t manage to complete the “surgery” without injuring herself in the process. This indirectly points to the fact that she can’t bring herself to change her daughter in any way, because she loves her just the way she is. However, Erika supports Suli by mending her wound. This visual reference indicates the fact that although Erika isn’t directly responsible for the hypothetical “butchering” of Alex’s gender, she is still an accomplice to the act.
The objective view on the profession of plastic surgery is not what is put into question in XXY, but rather the idea of someone operating on another individual without their full consent. If Alex would know exactly what she would want, then a gender-related operation would not be considered a butchering of her body. Ramiro appears as a butcher on screen for his cold, unloving relationship with Alvaro, not his professional involvement with Alex’s family.