Sunday, October 03, 2010

Alison Bechdel: Fun Home

Wow. I just finished Alison Bechdel's "graphic memoir," Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. It's such a daunting and moving piece of work - a true tour de force. Here's a great video where Bechdel details her process and you can see how friggin' laborious it is:

The end result is stunning. And that's just the visual presentation. The writing is equally as spectacular. Bechdel is the creator of the comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, and (surprise!) she's a lesbian. The book recounts her life from before her birth through her parents bio - up to the time her father dies in a mysterious accident in 1980 when Bechdel was 20.

His death occurred around the same time she had come out to her parents, which also coincided with her mother filing for a divorce. None of these events appear to be related until Bechdel learns that her father was a closet homosexual ("a manic-depressive, closeted fag," as she puts it) and had been having lovers for years during the marriage. His wife finally had had enough.

This causes Bechdel to go back over her relationship with him and she discovers little hints along the way that she was oblivious to at the time, but which make sense in light of what she now knows. She had tried a few months before his death to broach the subject and establish a rapport, but there wasn't enough time. In the end, she realizes that he was there for her and empathizes with his struggle over his identity. In a strange twist Bechdel also realizes that he was both Daedalus, the great artificer, as well as Icarus, the tragic child who plunges to his death. He took her place...or she was too self-aware to fly too high. Either way, she knows he loved her and discovers that she always loved him, too.

In many ways, Bechdel's father was forced to remain "hidden" and repressed due to society's stifling conventions that sadly still prevail. Sexual identity is at the core of one's being - it's morally reprehensible to deny a person's right to express it or circumscribe any civil or political rights because of it. Despite the senseless Tyler Clementi tragedy, I still draw much hope from actions like Dan Savage's recent "It Gets Better" project - LGBT equality is one of the final frontiers for human rights...

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