The Butcher – An Assessment of Lucía Puenzo’s XXY

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.

XXY

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”.

XXY

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.

XXY

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.

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3 thoughts on “The Butcher – An Assessment of Lucía Puenzo’s XXY

  1. I like how you talked about Ramiro butchering his family when he does not accept his son. That is a point I did not consider when looking at if Ramiro is a butcher or not, but I think it is a very valid point. As you pointed out, the comparison between the two families is very important and shows the difference between a loving and accepting family and a disapproving one. Although Suli, Alex’s mother, is trying to “fix” and “change” Alex into an unambiguous women the film shows that she is doing this out of love and fear of Alex being hurt if they stay the way they are. The threat to Alex’s safety is a very real problem as the film shows through disapproving statements of the neighbors and a group of boys attacking Alex just because they heard they were different. Suli comes to accept Alex and says that the surgery will happen only if Alex chooses it. Ramiro, on the other hand, is constantly trying to get his son, Alvaro, to conform to the type of life that Ramiro thinks he should lead. He tries to get him to drink, even when Alvaro says he does not want to, and makes fun of his life choices like being a vegetarian. He also does not accept his art and tells him that he will never be a talented artist and that he was afraid he was a fag. Your post about Ramiro being a butcher, not because of his profession, but because of his treatment of his family is a very insightful take on this film.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very well written post! When Alex referred to Ramiro as being a butcher, I had been taking it very literally. His job is, after all, to cut people up and make them look more appealing. You went a step further, though, and showed how this name applies to every aspect of Ramiro’s life.
    Ramiro spends the duration of the film trying to convince Alex’s family that surgery is Alex’s best option. However, Ramiro’s own “surgery” manages to go fairly undetected; he has, after all, “cut” his flesh and blood out of his life. He has alienated his son because he feels his son is abnormal.

    I spent a great deal of the film trying to understand why Ramiro felt so invested in Alex’s gender. He was very put off by the fact that Alex might become “masculinized” after avoiding hormones, and he seemed very eager to talk to the family about surgical options. I assumed this was related to Alvarado in some way, but I figured he wanted Alex to be as “womanly” as possible, so he wouldn’t have to face the fact that Alvarado might be interested in men. Now, I’m beginning to believe that Ramiro felt so invested because he identified with Alex. He had cut Alvarado out of his life because he was worried that Alvarado was “a fag”–that he was “deformed.” Alex’s struggle does, in a way, resemble Ramiro’s struggle.

    Great job–I really enjoyed your post!

    -Tzuni

    Liked by 1 person

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