Zerin Rahman Meem
Homosexuality and Relationship in Fun Home
In the graphic memoir Fun Home, Alison Bechdel includes various textual and visual elements to show us her significant moments, memorable events, and the relationship structure in her family. Both of them being homosexual does not cease to astonish the readers, however, the way they deal with it is much different. While her father hides, she wants to reveal the truth. She utilizes visual elements such as zoomed in drawings to capture readers’ attention. Also the constant flashback reflects her “not so ordered” life, her complicated ties with family. Books are mentioned to connect with the themes of homosexuality, and relationship.
The significance of enlarged drawings as a visual element were to emphasize moments that are important in bringing out their values.Those drawings jump out at you when you turn to that page, indicating Bechdel’s wish for the readers to pay close attention to it. For example, the photograph that Bechdel found in the family album, where their babysitter Roy is almost naked and laying down, takes up whole two pages (Bechdel,100-101), so that there is no way readers miss it. She wanted to point out her father’s boldness that allowed him to keep this kind of photo in their personal album where it could easily be found out. However, he never talked about his affairs with men. In another one, she put two pictures side by side, one is her father’s happy moment in his twenties, the other one coincidentally Bechdel’s birthday in her twenties (Bechdel,120). Their similar gestures and age were expected to be noted by the readers, which revealed their same attitude even though at different times. Also, the drawing that showed Bechdel’s leap and her father catching her ( Bechdel, 232), was an attractive choice because it suggests that he was like any father ready to save his daughter at anytime. Especially as they both had a similarsame -sex attraction, they understood each other point of view. She knew he would not be close minded and support her in her braveness of revealing her identity. All the zoomed in visuals were a great way to bring out her interest in showing her father’s and her own shared view that identified them: their homosexual behavior.
One social issue of homosexuality is clearly presented in Bechdel’s memoir. The surprising part is that she and her father were both homosexual but dealt with the situation differently. In Homosexuality and American Psychiatry, Bayer argues, “Our findings point to the homosexual adaptation as an exposure to highly pathologic parent-child relationships and early life situations” (Bayer, 30). I find it interesting as Bechdel’s memoir suggests not a very typical family that shares strong emotional bond. From her childhood, she mentions that everyone was busy with their own works. One time her mother was playing piano and she was being curious, and her mother responded with “don’t bother me now” (Bechdel,132), not paying attention to her. It was clear that she did not get enough company that she craved, leading her to even face compulsive disorder. This could be associated with her attraction to appear as a boy and interest in girls. But she was ready to show that in the society without fear. As for her father’s casehe attempted to conceal the truth about his identity as a gay man, and lived a normal life with his wife and children. As the Homosexuality and American Psychiatry points out the common view that “homosexuality was an abnormality”(Bayer,38) , it connects to her father’s case as he feared it being too uncommon to even disclose. He knew that it would not be accepted normally, so he carried on being a husband and a father, while hiding his attraction for other males.
One of the important elements presented in Fun Home was the rhetoric technique of flashback, that allowed her to move back and forth in time to convey all events that connected and were crucial in understanding of her lifestyle and family relationship. Usually, chronological order of a text helps the text to be neat and allow the reader be on track as clear transition seems visible. However, the continuous flashbacks in this tragicomic indicates the messy lifestyle of Bechdel, while requires the reader to be focused on the words to understand the change in shift. At the funeral of her father,She wanted to blurt out that he could not endure the lie he had been presenting and killed himself, instead she stayed calm (Bechdel,124). This urge to burst out came from her feelings, to support and take his side the way he wanted to. His desire to support her could be seen as she expresses how her father collaborated to make a small poem with her (Bechdel,129). It suggests that she was encouraged by her father at times that showed that he wasn’t always unattentive to her, but wanted to enlighten them. She also mentions the tension that her father brought home returning from work (Bechdel,196), when she was little she felt less comfortable in her father’s presence. This experience contradicts with the time when she was visiting New York with her father and enjoyed together (Bechdel,189). She notes, that one evening someone called their relationship “unnatural” when the father and daughter were focused on music (Bechdel, 225).That indicated their closeness which is not shown often.Their bond conveyed their distance from each other,as well as having certain memories that would make her enjoy revisiting them.
Relationship bond is one important aspect in the family as also visible in Bechdel’s memoir. In “Defining the Family through Relationships” ,it is admitted that, “emotional and behavioral aspects of family relationships are clearly important”( Floyd,Alan, Jeff ,37). Different kind of relations have different kind of advantages, and I think the emotional and behavioral aspects include mental bonds and showing affection to family members. This links back to Bechdel’s relation with her father. Clearly he provides the family with needs and gives recreation through taking them to vacation. Still, at some points it is visible that he does not fully disclose his own emotions. While Bechdel gets excited to talk about how she likes to be cross dressed just like his father used to, he stays mostly quiet, unwilling to relate any more to the topic (Bechdel, 221). As much as Bechdel tries to discuss, he distances himself. But he tries to give her company by watching movies. She mentions that “the sensation of intimacy was novel”( Bechdel,199) when she had the chance to give her opinion on the book they were reading in the class. There was always some invisible barrier that isolated them even if it was a little amount.
Bechdel conveys important issues that are recurring in society all the time including different sexual orientation,and family bonds. Her demonstrations are clear through the usage of some large drawings, flashbacks. Bechdel’s desire to share more time with her father reveals that she did not want to shut herself away like her father did.One of the questions that seems to arise from Bechdel’s tragicomic is that did her attraction for the same-sex actually developed from somewhat weak family bonds? Also, if her father was more open with her, would she be able to feel more connected and grieve her father’s absence?
Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home . New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007.
Bayer, Ronald. Homosexuality and American psychiatry: The politics of diagnosis. Princeton University Press, 1981.
Floyd, Kory, Alan C. Mikkelson, and Jeff Judd. "Defining the family through relationships." The family communication sourcebook (2006): 21-39.