Fun House: A Father and Daughters Disconnect

Fun House A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel was a book that offered not just an insight into the childhood of Alison, but it also provided me with an experience that I have not encountered before. This graphic novel was the first of its kind that I have encountered therefore it seemed to further draw me into the story and additionally, understand what the author was portraying through the use of its images. The images appear to instruct the imagination of the reader thus allowing the author to direct and manipulate the reader’s interpretation of the story with further accuracy. The story of Alison’s childhood is one that is filled with confusion and torment. Confusion in regards to the constant questioning of her and her father’s sexual orientation and torment within the tangled secrets that plague her family.

Sexual orientation plays a major factor within the story of Alison’s childhood as it not only marks itself as a prominent question in terms of her identity, but also as she learns, it is a constant struggle within the life of her father. This mismatched outlook of their sexual orientation, which is displayed within the story, seems to provide an insight into the differences in who they are as people and thus provide grounds as to why they seem to exhibit such an unstable relationship, “Not only were we inverts, we were inversions of each other. While I was trying to compensate for something unmanly in him, he was attempting to express something feminine through me. It was a war of cross-purposes, and so doomed to perpetual escalation” (98).

Alison appears to go through a journey of self-discovery in which she embraces her homosexuality with openness and curiosity, which is in stark comparison to her father who had secret affairs with his peers in the military, and additionally, high school students, including Alison’s babysitter. To Alison, her homosexuality seemed to be somewhat of a liberation, where she could in a sense, ‘blame’ something and have a reason for the personal differences she encountered in comparison to what her socially defined gender specified of her. Her father however viewed his homosexuality in a different manner, which can be illustrated with his fascination and obsession of their family home. There are numerous portrayals of Alison’s father within the story exemplifying the fixations he has on image and the impression of perfection, with most of these being represented within and on the house itself. I see this to be an analogy for Alison’s father as he likes to create a somewhat normative appearance, however underneath the essence of such a shell is a man torn and confused as to his identity. Like Alison’s father, the house seems perfect and thus must house a perfect family however, within its walls, a different story is revealed. This destructive family dynamic, for example, Alison being only able to recount two separate occasions of when her parents displayed physical affection, could additionally be why Alison seems to treasure the relationships that she has outside of her family, as the emotional bond that she has with these people is unfortunately not able to be replicated at home through the troublesome dynamics that her family encompass.

 

—DA

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Filed under Week 9: Cherrie Moraga and Alison Bechdel

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