After an 8-year relationship, Jae-nyeon and Woo-young decide to get married. Though similar brain lesions define them, the pair must confront and resolve marital issues identical to any other couple. Sea of Butterfly shows that even the disabled are not exempted from patriarchal marriage customs. The first half of the film depicts the fear and loneliness that results from Wooyoung’s hasty decisions. Later, his mother’s perspectives are explicitly visualized and contrasted with Jae-nyeon’s, implicitly revealed only by her acquaintances’ assumptions.
No human being chooses the starting point of his/her life. Each of them are entitled to a free, private life of their own, in the life given to them regardless of their will. But all human beings are born into this definitive frame that demarcates female and male, the disabled and the non-disabled. This demarcation defined ‘difference’ not as a difference between equals, but as a dichotomous frame of superiority/inferiority and disabled/non-disabled. Males and the non-disabled defined themselves as ‘normal’, positing themselves in the superior position. These ‘normal’ men used their power to create a ‘myth of normalcy’. With that myth, they have oppressed, excluded and controlled those defined as ‘abnormal’. The strongest ideological form of oppression, exclusion and control is the ‘patriarchy’. Patriarchal conventions created the facade of ‘normal family’, by forcing women into the role of housewives, mothers and care-takers, while men were given the responsibility to support their family through economic activities. As long as this society considers this pre-determined sex-roles as ‘normal’, both men and women are heavily burdened with the roles they have to perform in this institution of marriage.
By tracking the wedding preparation of two people living a life considered ‘abnormal’,
Sea of Butterfly lays out before us, in a patriarchal way, the attitude of the non-disabled toward those two, and the violence of the marriage institution trapped in the facade of the patriarchy.