What of Unnatural Bodies? The Discourse of Nature in Lucía Puenzo’s XXY and El niño pez/The Fish Child

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Studies in Hispanic Cinemas


As part of a broader goal of understanding how discourses of nature inform and affect gender and sexuality, this essay analyses two films by Argentine director Lucía Puenzo, XXY (2007) and El niño pez/The Fish Child (2009). Both films depict adolescents who are developing a sense of self in relation to norms of gender and sexuality and whose experience of sexual desire does not conform to the dominant heterosexual paradigm: the desire between an adolescent boy and an intersex adolescent who is raised as a girl in XXY and between two young women in The Fish Child. Each film inverts the natural/unnatural binary that is common to medical and juridical epistemologies of the sexual subject in favour of marginalized bodies and sexual practices. In so doing, they proceed by an internal conflict between their emphasis on personal freedom and their adherence to the logic of nature by which ‘natural’ bodies and practices are legitimated. Nature appears as part of a moral framework that functions as a limit condition, rather than an extension, of personal freedom. The fiction of nature is more firmly held in place in XXY than in The Fish Child, whose young characters knowingly dismantle and reconstruct as fiction the narrative of their lives.


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In 2013, Studies in Hispanic Cinemas changed its name to Studies in Spanish and Latin American Cinemas.



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