Tuesday 10 February 2015

Duke of Burgundy

'Yes, that's a butterfly reference,' said the voice on the radio. 'The film is full of them.' At this, naturally, my ears pricked up. The film under discussion was The Duke of Burgundy - clearly a reference to Hamearis lucina, Britain's only Metalmark butterfly, a pretty little thing (once classified as a Fritillary) that flies in early May, though not, alas, in my neck of the woods. However, it turned out that the Duke of Burgundy under discussion is a mucky  - sorry, 'stylish, sensual and smart' - movie (starring Sidse Babette Knudsen of Borgen fame) about 'a butterfly professor's dom/sub lesbian relationship'. Fancy.
 Why is it that whenever lepidopterists - or simple butterfly collectors - turn up in fiction they're invariably at least weird and manipulative, and often something far worse? From Frederick Clegg in John Fowles's The Collector to Stapleton in The Hound of the Baskervilles, from Judge Holden in Blood Meridian to Jame Gumb in The Silence of the Lambs, they're a thoroughly creepy bunch. And now a 'dom/sub lesbian' with some decidedly unhygienic habits has joined their ranks. I may be wrong, but I don't think much of that sort of thing goes on in my branch of Butterfly Conservation.

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