Mapping Fun Home Assignment Finalized

I have completed my Mapping Fun Home assignment. Click here to view the finished version! In this project, I made a bubble map of the interactions between Alison Bechdel and her father in the memoir Fun Home. I then analyzed this bubble map to see what my visualization revealed about the characters in the book. Everything went pretty fluidly, but what was hard was deciding what the best way to set up the pages of the text, because I basically just had a splash page and then a text set up as a more informal essay. Also, it was hard with a bubble map to zoom in on a certain section because it wasn’t that interesting to see a zoomed in picture of bubbles. However, I think overall the project went very smoothly.
To see the assignment information for this project, click here.

Bechdel’s spreadsheets

I was looking for an image on Flickr today and stumbled upon a few photos from a conference on Comics Philosophy and Practice that might be of interest to you.

These two spreadsheets are not from Fun Home but its sequel, Are You My Mother? (And here’s a more close-up shot of the latter.) That’s Bechdel on the right, discussing the spreadsheets–she seems to be outlining the process by which she went about organizing the narrative threads into the book. I don’t know if she used a similar spreadsheet for Fun Home too, but it’s safe to say based on the book itself and these images, that Bechdel very carefully structures and organizes the narrative and thematic elements of her books.

These photos of Bechdel’s presentation might help you to think about how to analyze the structure of Fun Home for your projects.

Some resources that might be useful for you as you think about Fun Home

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power protests in New York City against the bill. Wikipedia entry.

Last year, Uganda passed a law criminalizing homosexuality, which was ultimately invalidated by the nation’s top court, but for a span of almost a year consenting adults who engaged in homosexual sex might be punished with life in prison and anyone who was found to be counseling gay people would have faced 7 years in prison. Here is the Wikipedia article describing the law. The day after the law was passed, one of the Ugandan tabloids published “EXPOSED! Uganda’s 200 Top Homos Named,” which seemed to be a provocation not only for the police but for vigilantes to go after the people identified.

Some American pastors served as consultants for the nation of Uganda in drafting this bill, including Scott Lively, an anti-gay activist best known for his book The Pink Swastika, which has been thoroughly discredited by historians but that blames the Holocaust on homosexuals. Lively’s organization has been officially designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Lively was interviewed by NPR’s Michele Martin on 2/27/14 about the Ugandan law and gay rights. The first part of the story may or may not be interesting to think about, but the reason I’m linking you to this interview is the ending. Lively says that perhaps the Ugandan law is a tiny bit extreme, and proposes his own best case scenario for how homosexuality should be handled in the US, to return to the times before the Stonewall Riots Alison Bechdel describes in chapter 4. Lively says:

Well, I believe that societies of the world have an affirmative duty to protect the natural family and to discourage all sex outside of marriage. And I’m talking about adultery, fornication, homosexuality, incest, all of it. But I also believe that in our societies we should have, you know, reasonable tolerance for people who decide to live outside the mainstream discreetly. I think we had a pretty good balance in the 1940s and ’50s in this country. Unquestionably, it was a family-centered mainstream culture and subcultures in which homosexuals and others could live out their lives and be happy.

There’s also an article from last year about the South Carolina legislature punishing the College of Charleston for including Fun Home on a list of recommended reading over the summer. One legislator in South Carolina said that it is inappropriate to have open discussion in college classrooms about homosexuality–that such topics are not worthy of scholarly attention. Bechdel is quoted as replying, in part, that “It’s sad and absurd that the College of Charleston is facing a funding cut for teaching my book – a book which is after all about the toll that this sort of small-mindedness takes on people’s lives.”

It might be useful for you to think about these questions as you develop your maps of Fun Home.

  • What does Bechdel mean when she asserts that Fun Home is about “the toll that this sort of small-mindedness takes on people’s lives”?
  • If Lively got his wish and we returned to the 1950s when gay people kept their sexuality “discreet” and hidden from the outside world, then would everyone get to “live out their lives and be happy,” as he asserts?
  • Based on what we’ve read of Bechdel’s book, what sorts of impacts might such a cultural and legal turning back have?

Patterns in “The Ideal Husband”

I found many different visual patterns throughout “The Ideal Husband”. The settings of each frame of the chapter repeat themselves frequently. There are many frames that take place on the porch, many frames that are simply writing or text on a page, and many frames that take place in the kitchen. There are also several patterns of individual objects. The mother wears a headband in most of the frames that she is in. The mother, the father, and Alison all smoke throughout the chapter, and body and facial hair is shown on many men throughout the chapter.

There are also many patterns in the narrative. The father faces legal charges at the same time Nixon is being impeached, Alison receives her period and the locust emerge from the larva, and the idea of the play “The Importance of Being Earnest” and the fathers interest in young boys.


Patterns in “Ideal Husband” of Fun Home

One pattern that I have noticed in the sixth chapter (“Ideal Husband”) of Fun Home is change. There are several changes in terms of history, plot and characters that occurs within the chapter. For example, picking up the seventeen year locust represents the change of the insect from a larva to an adult. This was especially interesting as it corresponded with Alison going through puberty, when usually insects have a much faster life cycle. To add onto this, Alison getting a period is a turning point in her life in which she is moving towards being an adult from a kid. Other than this, Alison’s dad going to the psychiatrist and president Nixon’s impeachment are other examples of significant changes that occurs in this chapter.

Pattern in Fun Home: ‘Ideal Husband’

Throughout this chapter, many major events take place, all contributing to the idea that perhaps life is becoming much more real for Alison. There are numerous instances in Alison’s immediate life as well as the life of those around her where they must face the truth and by the end of the chapter, they do. There are three very clear examples: Alison’s Father seeing a psychiatrist, Nixon’s impeachment, and Alison getting her period. Alison’s Father is a little reluctant to let his family know that he is seeing a psychiatrist at the beginning. Alison even calls these meeting a ‘secret’. But, as the chapter progresses, Alison refers to “the sessions” (Bechdel, 184) very easily and like a normal part of life. Alison’s Father and her entire family face the truth and acknowledge that this is just another part of their life. Another interesting cycle where Alison must learn to face the truth is when she gets her period. Originally, she kind of brushes it off and decides that she doesn’t have to tell her mother about her period for a while. But, by the end of the chapter, Alison does get the confidence to talk to her mother about what happened. Although her mother doesn’t seem to care that much, Alison’s secret does come to light and Alison is able to face the truth which is a very big breakthrough. Lastly, Nixon’s impeachment process begins. At the beginning of the chapter this is just an idea but when we are nearing the end of the chapter, Nixon “threw in the towel” (Bechdel, 181). He realized that if he wanted to leave office without the reputation of being impeached, he had to resign. Nixon faces the truth. These are just three of the many examples of characters facing the truth throughout this chapter.


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Patterns in “An Ideal Husband”

In Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home, there seems to be some distinct patterns in her sixth chapter “An Ideal Husband.” I will only focus on the one that stands out most to me. The way Bechdel structures this chapter, whether it be chronologically close or not, was a few examples of natural events that seemed to be plaguing the Bechdel home in almost biblical proportions.

First, it began with the locusts. If my memory serves me, I remember in the Old Testament during Moses’s chapter that he said Ramses would have consequences for not freeing the slaves, and it seemed weird to me that these temporal cicadas came and attacked the perimeter of Alison’s home.

The second almost supernatural phenomenon Bechdel mentions is the catastrophic storm that is unleashed one summer. Nothing inside their home was really touched, but the outside was destroyed. What became even stranger was the fact that the rest of the neighborhood did not get any damage, or even any effects of the storm, for that matter.

The way Bechdel presents it sounds like the forces of nature are punishing the Bechdel family for some reason, and I thought that was an interesting pattern she thought to bring up.