How is it possible to be in love with a man for 20 years, and believe all the time that he is a woman? Did Rene never see Song unclothed? Did his hand never once wonder beneath her clothing? Is it possible that Rene did not know because he did not want to know? That for nearly two decades, he was in love with the "woman" of his dreams, and did not allow reality to interfere. Rene was blinded by his white western fantasies about the submissive Asian woman. He wanted the "ideal" woman, but he was too blinded by his so-called love of Song to permit himself to see the other evidence. Deep in his subconscious he knew that he was being blinded by the love of the "perfect woman", and perhaps even more so by his desire for this "perfect woman". It's difficult to believe that Rene could have been fooled for such a great amount of time. He had to have known Song's true identity after all that time he spent with "her". And although he repressed it in the back of his mind for all those years, he must have been in great denial that he was secretly gay.
Entranced by his first sight of Song Liling, during a performance at a diplomatic function, he falls immediately in love, forgets his wife and his responsibilities, and embarks on a bizarre relationship fueled by mad passion. I found Rene and Song's relationship rather sickening. At no point throughout the movie did I once sense "true love" and happiness shared mutually between them. Their relationship was full of manipulation and deceit. Rene was only in it to fulfill his perverse fantasies regarding submissive oriental women. Every time he asked Song, "Are you my Butterfly?" I almost dropped my popcorn! The way in which she submitted to his wants and desires sickened me. She abandoned her morals and "ancient Chinese traditions" just to please the white western man. Perhaps part of Song's appeal is how she always keeps Rene at arms length. That, plus her mystery and sex appeal, fueled what seemed like a constant "chase".