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The ‘Greatest Finn’ meets the ‘Gay Marshal’: Foucault’s cycle, national narratives and The Butterfly of the Urals

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The article examines the case of the ‘Gay Marshal’, the late C.G.E. Mannerheim, president of Finland, supreme commander of Finnish military forces during World War II, and often voted the ‘Greatest Finn’ in opinion polls. In the puppet-animation film The Butterfly of the Urals (Katariina Lillqvist, 2008) Mannerheim wears a purple corset and enjoys a relationship with his male servant. The film incited a media war. The article shows how the film’s reception involves Foucault’s cycle, a concept adapted from Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality (1984 [1976]): sexuality fascinates and attracts large audiences, but its visibility is viable only under certain conditions, rules and restrictions. Focusing on sexuality also turns out to be a means of closeting the painful, wilfully forgotten Civil War (1918) history, which has divided Finland and remained a problematic topic in Finland’s national narratives.

Keywords: Finland; Mannerheim; Michel Foucault; animation; media reception; nationality; queer; sexuality

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Jyväskylä

Publication date: June 17, 2011

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  • The Journal of Scandinavian Cinema is a new scholarly journal devoted to film in the Scandinavian countries. It aims to become the prime site for excellent research and engaging discussions on cinema in Scandinavia, both within the national context of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and as a region existing in a globalized world.
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