Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Updated: Sep 13, 2020
If you're a movie buff and/or a feminist, you've probably heard the name Bechdel before. The Bechdel Test is a popular barometer for the quality of a film's representation of women. Essentially, a movie passes the Bechdel Test if it has two named female characters who talk to each other about something that isn't a man. The basis for the test comes from a 1985 comic strip of Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For, which ran for 25 years starting in 1983. The strip was an early representation of queer women and, despite some dated political references, remains a relevant and enjoyable work within queer media.
While Dykes to Watch Out For and the Bechdel Test are important and interesting topics, this post is about one of Bechdel's other works: Fun Home. Bechdel's graphic memoir, released in 2006, reflects on the author's complex relationship with her father and the known, but unspoken, secrets that affect family relationships. Bechdel deserves a spot in the canon due to her overall status as an influential and groundbreaking queer artist, but what makes her memoir particularly special is the candidness with which she writes about her own sexuality and her willingness to openly explore aspects of a complicated childhood. In Fun Home, Bechdel shares the discovery of her father's secret life as a closeted gay man after his untimely death. Although I'm assuming most people aren't in this specific situation, many of us can relate to not fully understanding our parents and the experience of learning that the adults you looked up to are flawed human beings. Fun Home is funny, smart, and a thoughtful reflection on growing up and coming to terms with your family and childhood. It perfectly encapsulates the literary value of graphic novels.
If you want to know more about Dykes to Watch Out For, you can access a (partial) strip archive here. Additionally, this website keeps tracks of recently released movies that pass the Bechdel Test and this page explains some problems with the test and provides other tests that judge the representation of gender, race, and sexuality in film.
One last fun side note, Fun Home was adapted into a Broadway musical in 2013. Check out a clip of their 2015 Tony's Performance here!