A Fluttering of Wings: The Ideas at the heart of The Earth Below

The Earth Below” for me is a combination of my admiration for Puccini’s opera “Madam Butterfly” and the themes of Alienation, powerful women, and unrequited love.

Ever since I watched the opera “Madame Butterfly,” I have been fascinated with the balance and influence of East meets West. This stems from my upbringing as an Asian American, which often times consisted of finding equilibrium between these two very different cultures. Growing up, I often felt “stuck in the middle,” never fully identifying with either my family’s cultural ideals or those of my Western friends. For me, “The Earth Below” explores some of these emotional struggles as an Asian American – not feeling like I belonged, wanting what I was told I should not want, and being constantly alienated within my own family and amongst my friends.

The story of Madame Butterfly also touches upon the strength of being a woman in a misogynistic environment. Though we are lucky in the U.S. to have progressed in the treatment of women, much of the world still does not see women as equals to men. In the original story, Butterfly handles her fate weakly and is limited by her cultural circumstances—I wanted to explore a different perspective. In “The Earth Below”, Butterfly’s strength grows as she recognizes and embraces her own self-value and independence.

Finally, I wanted to explore the question: “Can you love more than one person at a time?” Society puts pressure on monogamous relationships and it is interesting to challenge these societal norms and put the characters through the ebb and flow of passion, developing relationships, forbidden and unrequited love.

It has been an amazing opportunity collaborating with my long-time friend and writer, Eric Hwang. When I pitched the story to him and to the rest of the crew on a challenge to develop our first science fiction drama, the support has been incredible. Together we have been able to put together a tiny glimpse into this story that we hope to eventually develop into a full-length feature.

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