Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 3)

The Inability to Grieve

Bechdel’s first three chapters are filled with the control ridden childhood that she lived because of her father’s issues. It was quite sad to see how the father’s repressed sexuality drove him to never develop relationships with anyone in his family, and that it caused him to remain solely focused on the redecorating of his house.

Bechdel uses many allusions throughout the first half of her piece, but the ones that stood out to me were the comparison of her father to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s  and her family to the Adams family. Both of these references bring a dark light to her family dynamic and her father as a whole.  She uses the Adams family reference to drive home the morbidity that surrounded her life due to a) her family working at the “fun home” and b) how cold her family unit was.  She spoke about how the most striking resemblance between her family and the  Adams family was the cavalier attitude that they had towards death due to the family business.  After continuing to read about Bechdel’s attitude towards her father’s death I wondered if growing up around death made her less subject to grieve or her lack of a relationship with him influenced her.  The comparison of her father to Gatsby and Fitzgerald himself really helped portray how unhappy her father truly was.  These references also helped me further understand the line ” … my parents are most real to me in fictional terms,” Bechdel not only employs the use of allusion to help us further understand the dynamic between her parents but also does this to help us understand her view of them. Bechdel talks about how their marriage always seemed fake to them and these references helped me understand how far apart her parents really lived even under the same roof.

All in all, her family dynamic was quite disheartening, but Bechdel does a good job of helping the reader understand it through allusions.

Escape From Reality

The main themes of the first three chapters of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, Fun Home, seem to be centered around escaping from reality. With the structure of the graphic novel being starkly different from the other pieces we’ve been reading in class, Bechdel describes her father’s life in relation to her family with a series of anecdotes and literary references to characters in some of her and her father’s favorite books.

These first couple of chapters of the novel were very interesting albeit a bit morbid. It made me uncomfortable to get a glimpse into this dysfunctional family where the father was projecting his repressed sexuality onto his family through exerting his control over the redecorating of the house. His role was not one of a loving father, but rather one of authority. Both of his children and his wife were forced to walk on eggshells around him and were unable to voice their opinions in fear that he may lash out. The rule that the Bechdel children and Helen, their mother, agreed on —to never mention anything about what he wore whether good or bad— demonstrated just how controlling and volatile Bruce’s temper was.

Bechdel tries to understand her relationship with her father through drawing parallels between her family and the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Comparing her father to Daedalus, she notes that they are both geniuses in their own right, with Daedalus being a master inventor and her father being a master at altering appearances. Through Bechdel’s anecdotes about her father, it is clear that he is not comfortable with his identity. Thus, he attempts to escape the reality of his life —his wife whom he does not love, and his children— through trying to control the minuscule details that aren’t significant in the bigger picture. He channels his energy into redecorating their house, making it seem ornate and grandiose, in an attempt to hide the dysfunctionality of their family. Furthermore, Bruce’s repressed sexuality is apparent in their family dynamic. Comparing her family to the minotaur, Bechdel implies that her family is also trapped. However, instead of being trapped in a maze, her family is trapped by Bruce’s obsessions and repressed sexuality.

Further contemplating her father’s death, Bechdel struggles with her emotions regarding his death. Bechdel describes the way in which she and her siblings would have fun at the funeral home, smelling the mourners’ salts and playing around the caskets. Because the Bechdel children have grown up around a funeral home, their attitudes toward death have become desensitized. This desensitization leads to emotional issues when Bechdel’s father dies. She is unable to fully mourn her father due to the repression of her feelings, a repression she first exerted when seeing her first corpse. This leads to the opening of this wound later on in her life when Bechdel is able to fully accept her sexuality.

Appearances and Visuals in “Fun Home”

“Fun Home”, by Alison Bechdel, poses a starch contrast to our other readings and pieces studied. Bechdel examines her personal past in this visual memoir, constructing a introspective look into her experiences with love, family and sexuality. She begins her memoir examining her home and her father’s obsession with it. I thought that the first chapter was the basics of the entire title and book itself, but as I read further, I discovered it is further extended to the funeral home, her father’s death, her relationship with her family, and her own sexuality and place in her body. The piece contains hidden or briefly mentions of points she furthers on through out “Fun Home”, but through Bechel’s imagery in the visual pictures and comics, she is able to convey a multitude of points persistently  throughout her piece.

In her first chapter, she examines her father’s obsession with appearances. Her focus on this is almost ironic due to her use of graphics to display the preoccupation. We are able to visualize preoccupation, but the form makes an interesting relationship as the graphics fixate on appearances too.  In sexuality in general, there is an emphasis on the appearance of one- whether that is focused in ones’ gender, beauty, or sexual attraction. In “Fun Home”,  Ashley’s father has an obsession with appearances that is apparent in his own physical looks, home, and presence in society. Even in his death, the symbolic nature of his tombstone is based in appearance. One thing I found interesting through Bechel’s pictures was on page 29, when she creates a mirror of her father’s own appearance to the obelisk. A major theme through out the three chapters, and I hypothesize through the entire piece, is symbolic nature and thematic presence on looks.

While there are a plethora of other interesting symbols and devices throughout the piece, one of the most intriguing I found was the stark juxtaposition of images throughout her graphics. On page 65, her father is writing a love letter to her mother during his time in Germany, while other men in the background wrestling. This intention juxtaposition serves many purposes, but primarily, it visible shows the difference of her father to the typical males.

 

The Appearance of Blue Talk and Love

“Blue Talk and Love”, the short story by Mecca Sullivan, explores the complex interworking and relationships of a coming of age girl named Earnestine. This story is very unlike other pieces we’ve read- both in format and subject matter.  explores the relations of race, class, body issues, early sexualization, marriage, and urbanization all in one piece. In addition, she also addresses the ideas of loneliness and love.

Mecca Sullivan begins her piece discussing Earnestine relationship and friendship with Xiomara. Xiomara is the more idealized view of beauty in American Society, and E seems to be both jealous and crave her. Yet at the same time, she has an amount of hatred for her- their relationship is complicated, and reflects the complications of most relationships. Throughout the piece, there is attention to appearance and the way things look. She begins the piece describing what Xiomara and Earnestine look like and the implications of their appearance, raising discussion of body image. Often in her writing, Sullivan describes things and events as the way the look. For example, when Earnestine accidentally comes across pornographic movie, she describes and introduces the situation with, “Earnestine was looking at a naked man” (pg. 38).  Sullivan’s emphasis on their appearance also raises the issue of sexualization of young girls- from her story, you may think the girls were in their later teenage years or into adulthood. However, in reality, the girls are only in sixth grade.

Sullivan also writes about the complicated marriage of Earnestine’s parents. Confusing mostly on her father, the third person emphasizes the worry Earnestine has about her father, as she sees him as being very lonely and emasculated. This is contradictory and in juxtaposition of the dreamt about marriage of stereotypical America.

Assumed Sexuality

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan’s Blue Talk and Love provides a melancholy, sober look into Earnestine’s life—while her exploration of her ambiguous sexuality is the center of the story, her desire, like those of most teenagers, are hidden underneath layers of body insecurity, feelings of otherness, discomfort, and envy, and worries about her life at home.  Sullivan’s story exposes how complicated sexuality can be, and how coming to terms with an outside-the-norm sexuality can be difficult when one gets so easily distracted by other insecurities.  Just as the story doesn’t expose Earnestine’s sexuality until its end—and never truly explains it—her feelings for Xiomara are hidden throughout the narration, rather than stated as truth by the narrator, or by Earnestine herself.  Earnestine’s father’s issues and her insecurities about fitting into school dominate the narrative, only leaving her sexual orientation as a small thread that gets explored right at the very end.  This construction reveals that sexuality remains private, predetermined, and unquestioned for most of our lives—Earnestine assumes that she hates Xiomara instead of considering that her feelings for Xiomara might be more complicated than that.

Earnestine’s opinion of Xiomara—one of envy and distaste—is revealed to really be the product of her affection for Xiomara conflicting with the norms constructed by society.  Earnestine assumes that Xiomara enjoys having boys chase after her, and that Earnestine herself should be searching for a boyfriend, too.  While her sexuality is never explicitly stated—the narrator acknowledges that Earnestine desires boys as well as Xiomara, leaving her orientation outside the bounds of a label—Earnestine resents Xiomara for her alluring personality and looks.  Sullivan treads a very fine line between the feeling of jealousy when comparing oneself to a more beautiful, more popular girl, and the feeling of longing to be romantically involved with her, and this ambiguity represents what it feels like for Earnestine to explore her sexuality.

Do blue talk and love always go together?

In “Blue Talk and Love” by Mecca Sullivan  Earnestine explores and experiences many different kinds of unconventional love in her life from her parents tumultuous marriage to her infatuation with her neighbor and peer Xiomara. As opposed to most of the articles we’ve read thus far, this piece is fictional but often I find that fiction can portray truths better than factual statements. Her style is borders on lyrical and has many lengthy descriptions.

When comparing herself to her peers, Earnestine feels as if she doesn’t live up to the white beauty standards around her which perpetuate that being white and thin is beautiful. Her male classmates often make fun of her for the way she looks. On the other hand, her father tells her that her appearance doesn’t matter, what matters is that she has soul. She often compares herself to Xiomara who is stereotypically beautiful and who is universally adored by boys at school and feels insignificant.

Her relationship with Xiomara is very personal and the time they spend together is intimate. She “felt that she and Xiomara were alone in a secret tropical cave beneath a post-apocalyptic city sometime around the year 2020–an impossible distance away.” (23) Spending time with Xiomara allows her to escape her reality. By the end of the story its implied that Xiomara and Earnestine have some kind of romantic or sexual relationship.

She often observes her parents fighting at home and “It was the small hidden questions of her parent’s lives that scared her.” (32) The communication issues between them are apparent. Her father often plays music after their fights and he plays September but “It was a ballad, a relentless tale of loss that brought to mind all of the things she feared most about love, and made her wonder how people managed to grow up at all.” (34) She doesn’t seem to understand how people fall in love or stay in love since her parents aren’t in love anymore. The connection between “blue talk and love” symbolizes how often with love there is sadness accompanied with it.

 

Sexuality in the Public Eye

Roxanne Gay explores the effects of celebrities and public figures who choose to reveal themselves as members of the LGBTQ community. It is Gay’s belief that while interesting, these revelations don’t advance the agenda of the community, and that unrealistic expectations are placed on these celebrities to help do so. Gay examines the stories of Anderson Cooper, Frank Ocean, and Sally Ride in this piece to prove her point.

I agree with parts of what Gay says such as her opinion that we expect far too much of people in the public eye. “We expect role models to model the behavior we are perfectly capable of modeling ourselves” (p.169). Anderson Cooper, Sally Ride, and Frank Ocean are probably far too busy (and didn’t ask) to take on as behemoth of a task as engineering change for a whole community. “Despite our complex cultural climate and what needs to be done for the greater good, it is still an unreasonable burden that someone who is marginalized must bear an extra set of responsibilities” (p.168).

While I strongly agree with that sentiment, Gay somewhat loses me when she is discussing Frank Ocean. Her credibility takes a hit when she is discussing the “Odd Future” music collective. When reading it, it is easy to find yourself agreeing with Gay and her opposition to artists such as Tyler the Creator, but with a quick google search she could have found out that Tyler the Creator himself is a member of the LGBTQ community, having come out and addressed it multiple times over the years. While this doesn’t make her point moot, I think that her credibility definitely takes a hit as she is attacking a bisexual man for using a slur in a song. I’d imagine it to be similar to a black man using the “N” word in a rap.

Overall, I agree with Gay’s points, but it jumped out at me that she would write this as fact without including necessary details.

Privacy of Sexuality vs Publicity of Coming Out

Roxanne Gay begins her piece “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories” analyzing the increasing lack of privacy, especially for public figures, in today’s culture. We desire to know everything in their lives’, from their sexuality to intimate details of their relationships, despite not quite having the authority. Gay associates the public as “we”, creating a common and more subjective critique of this crave of knowledge We assume its the sacrifice they make for fame and fortune. However, we forget that these public figures are still human, and often just figuring it out for themselves too.

Gay analyzes the three coming out stories of Anderson Cooper, Frank Ocean, and Sally Rider. All different types of celebrities, with different stories, in different places. However, with their publicity of their sexuality, they were able to “stand up and be counted”. This is an integral part of the quest for LGBTQ rights. Often we already love the celebrity, and thus, their sexuality brings more to light and has helped to normalize the issues. Their fame creates a responsibility- they are in a place where they can come out and help the issues, but not all are so lucky. Between hate crimes and hatred, depending on where you are, it can be literally dangerous to come out. While the privacy is an important right, the publicity of coming out can change lives and help with the civil rights of the entire movement

However, in order to complete address the movement, society as a whole must do more. We should no longer be allowed to normalize and be okay with anything but acceptance.

Unfortunate Responsibility

In “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories”, Roxane Gay examines the privacy rights of celebrities and their influence on social issues such as homosexuality. Gay argues that by becoming more famous, there is a tradeoff with less privacy. This is because as humans, we are curious and want to know anything just for the sake of it. Celebrities are easy targets because they are always talked about and they are known to the public. However, Gay feels that it is wrong to strip the boundaries of these individuals because they are humans as well. I agree with her stance on that because some individuals that become famous never intended to. They were just doing what they love, and happened to be put in that position.

Because of their social position, we tend to put tremendous pressure on these celebrities to tackle social issues. A huge one would be “coming out the closet”, where so many individuals are coming out as gay, bisexual, etc. While it is amazing for progress and people are more comfortable now than ever to come out, it shouldn’t be the responsibility of those under the spotlight. We put an unfair amount of responsibility on these celebrities to change the world, but they are human beings as well. They never signed up to change the beliefs about homosexuality, and the first ones who did succumb to the social pressure definitely had to feel uncomfortable. However, as the saying goes “curiosity killed the cat”, someone has to pay for our need for information. As in this case, it is unfortunately the homosexual celebrities.

No privacy in coming out

In “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories” By Roxane Gay she explores the role of celebrities coming out and their responsibilities to do so. The first part of her argument is constructed around the role of privacy and how expecting people to come out, or forcing them to is a violation of privacy. Our culture is obsessed with placing these people in categories will have some impact on our lives, or that creating these categories is our responsibility, when most of the time, creating such taxonomy won’t change anything at all.” (161) Her use of the word taxonomy has a scientific edge to it implying that our culture categorizes people’s sexuality almost in a pseudo-scientific manner to imply that difference in sexuality has greater implications which it doesn’t. People’s intense, yet useless curiosity often results in people being “forcibly outed” (161). Celebrities face the most pressure to come out even if it violates their right to privacy. Because of their roles as public figures many people think that “there is a greater obligation that must be met beyond what that person might ordinarily choose to meet” (164). Gay recognizes that this pressure isn’t necessarily fair and that it shouldn’t be necessary, but because their actions can make a potential difference they should.

The second component of her argument is that not all instances of coming out are as easy as others. She makes the point that Anderson Cooper didn’t face much backlash when he publicly came out because like other gay celebrities, he doesn’t present as “too gay” and that is why he was accepted because of he is“white, successful, handsome, and masculine” (165). He fits the image that people want to assign to gay men and therefore was accepted as so. Others who do not fulfill this image often face challenges. She refers to this issue as “a problem though that there’s a right kind of gay” (166). An eye opening comparison she drew for me was the difference in situations between Anderson Cooper coming out and Frank Ocean coming out. Because of their differing identities, careers, and communities they exist in they’re public coming outs had very different levels of risk.

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