Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a beautifully executed text that masters a balance between humor and tragedy. As an autobiography portrayed in the medium of a graphic novel, Bechdel articulates with a subtlety that cuts to the bone with melancholy and her juxtaposition of dialogue against image that has you caught between a smile and a wince.
“He used his skilled artifice not to make things, but to make things appear to be what they were not (160).
The morbidity exemplifies Bechdel’s perception of her childhood and how the eccentricity of her upbringing and family dynamics shaped the introspective and observant person that she consequently developed into. The graphic texts is charged with sexuality and societies perception of taboo sexual divergence, exemplified not by words or actions, but largely by what is not said, not expressed.
Books and literary figures are introduced throughout Fun Home as a way of showcasing Bechdel’s family, an articulation that can only be accomplished by way of infusing literature. In this regard, the literary, fiction, seems to have a better grasp on the “real” than reality. Bechdel understands her life and the darker events that are expressed so nonchalantly, turning to the following literary exemplars:
(1) The universe of Fitzgerald: the cold opulence of Gatsby’s empty empire as an attempt to compensate for an unrequited desire/self-fulfillment
(2) The Addams Family: Humorous in their morbidity, it’s been desensitized to the point of apathy (the only difference between the Bechdel’s and the Addams is the former’s lack of familial sentiment)
(3) The mythological Icarus: A re-playing of the myth in reverse role-play (Bechdel’s father being the one ill-fated)
(4) Biblical Reference: Designating the time before her father’s suicide as “prelapsarian,” alluding to the bliss of Eden before The Fall (most fitting). Not to mention the ominous snake metaphor…
Although sexuality does encompass a huge theme in the text, the concept of “homosexuality” is not the driving force of the work. The expression of love, robbed closure, and open-endedness of life and the answers it erects are at the epicenter. With that said Fun Home reads more as a cathartic exercise than a simple regurgitation of past events. The “characters” in the text walk around with their eyes rolled back, preoccupied with the “self” alone, living to satisfy the internal. These aren’t figures I will likely forget anytime in the near future. Maybe it’s the aloofness of her father’s gaze that deeply resonates, or the exhaustion of Bechdel’s mother and her need to create something that is undeniably hers, or it could be Bechdel’s own forlorn drifting between the two, searching for a meaning that emancipates itself from father and mother, but still cannot help wanting an attachment.
“Not only were we inverts. We were inversions of one another (98).”