Why Bechdel’s Organization is Important

In chapter one, Bechdel barely mentions a significant about her father.  She states “but would an ideal husband and father have sex with teenage boys?” (17).  It is written, and then she moves on, as though this statement is not very important.  When I sat there reading, I thought to myself “that’s it?  No explanation at all?”

This same reaction happened again on page 46.  She nonchalantly says that she has a girlfriend. This time, it is less of an exposure and more of a fact that should not be thought over. It is subtly put “as I told my girlfriend what had happened, I cried quite genuinely for about two minutes.”  Granted, this graphic novel was only published several years ago–in which case there is not a necessity to explain one’s sexuality. Unless, of course, one is writing a memoir.

So there are these 2 different sentences lying within her book, where she gives us important details to her life, and, yet, she tells us them like they are nothing.  Of course, once we get to chapter 3,  she begins to go over these more thoroughly.  But why is such an explanation delayed?  Why did she not start with chapter 3?  Or why did she not choose to write and illustrate her memoir in chronological order?

Then there is the end of chapter 3, in which she says “…that would only confirm that his death was not my fault. That, in fact, it had nothing to do with me at all. And I’m reluctant to let go of that last, tenuous bond” (86).  And this is what exposed it to me.

Perhaps the novel is not pursuing to tell us about the true connection between her, her father, and his death.  Maybe it is not about the series of events that led to his death.  Because no matter how connected they may seem, they are immovable from time.  Her father was have sex with adolescent boys long before she came out of the closet. As she read Elsa’s anecdote on page 74, she had also been a lesbian, and it will never change.  Every piece was already there, regardless of whether or not Bechdel chose to come out to her parents.

Her parents’ marriage was unhappy. Her father was unhappy.  She was not the catalyst to her father’s decisions.  And that explains the organization.  She did not need to give an immediate explanation, because, in the end, it will not be important.  Perhaps I am being overly presumptuous for someone who has yet to finish reading.  Regardless to whether or not these were her true intentions, her organization had to be intentional, because there is no way I was the only one re-reading those two sentences.  The revealing of these details were sore thumbs, and only further reading will bring the swelling down.

Why Subtlety is Not so Subtle

It seems quite clear as we read Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that Brick is gay. It is never said outwardly. It is only ever implied.  But in our eyes, it seems quite obvious that he was romantically involved with Skipper and has been depressed ever since.

My curiosity is whether or not this was as visible to us now as it was when the play was first published.  Homosexuality existed back in the 50s, but it clearly was not talked about so explicitly and casually as it is today.  So with this context, we see Brick and Maggie’s marriage, and all I can question is whether or not this remains in context to today.

Certainly there are people who are raised in communities in which homosexuality is viewed as a sin, but that does not necessarily mean that someone who is gay in such a community would be so closeted and married.  Maybe such a scenario still happens, but if so, it still does not seem so common.

What I conclusively took from this text is that though these issues were very real when first published, they do not apply nearly as much as they do today.  While certain popularly banned books like Lolita still irritate audiences today, stories like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof may not hit the same note.

This is not to discredit the play’s importance. Rather than seeing it as revalent to society today, it seems to be a building block of how society has become.

How Words Meet Justifications–Even If They May Not be Needed

My first reaction to Lolita is actually that name itself. Lolita. It is her name, but it is only her name in the arms of Humbert Humbert.  In fact, her name is really Dolores.  It seems that her real name and her pet name are total opposites.

Dolores. A name that connotes nothing sexual whatsoever.  The name is completely ordinary.  Dolores is the twelve-year-old child that throws tantrums with her mother in public places.

But Lolita. The name honestly sounds exotic. It sounds foreign.  Suddenly, it seems okay for Humbert Humbert to fantasize about her, because she becomes a different person.  But he makes her into that different person.  He seems so fixated on the girl from his past that he is grasping to have that back.  But he knows it’s wrong. He even tried resisting his infatuation for a while with prostitutes.  But then he would sit in the park. And then he’d find younger prostitutes.

It seems that this protagonist that we have been given contorts language to justify his needs.  These girls are not just pre-adolescents; these girls are nymphets. The label then makes it appear as though they are intentionally sexual to him–that they make him want them.  And the same seems to go for the name Lolita.  The new name displaces her from reality and into the world that Humbert Humbert dreams about.  Even the way the name fits in the mouth for each syllable–each “l” is a lick of the teeth, the “t” is also very forward, and the balance of vowels make the word very open.

It may seem odd to analyze something down to a name, but it is important.  If this book is intending for the audience to support Humbert Humbert, then there is a reason why.  The way that he justifies it is the way that we will justify it.

Which brings up the most logical of his arguments. There is a part in chapter five in which he mentions a multitude of celebrated men throughout history who married girls in the same age range that he is fond about.  And that is completely true.  For a long time, it was perfectly okay for a twenty or thirty something year old man to marry a thirteen-year-old girl without any issues of morality.

So it begs some questions.  Though we can agree that a pre-adolescent is not mentally equipped for romantic relationship, does that make Humbert Humbert’s attractions wrong?  If, historically speaking, it used to be considered normal and okay, and then does he really need to make excuses?  Maybe it really is just human nature and society condemns him for being merely human.


To Be a Man and Belong

Benjamin Percy writes about boys in Refresh, Refresh. Boys in a small, marine-centric town.  What is seen is the eyes around them.  They fight, they drink, they take women home.  It seems to be their expectation to do so, because, after all, it is what the men do there.  And then they enlist. They follow the same steps as any other man in the town.

Because of this, I couldn’t help but think about Being a Man by Paul Theroux and how he discusses how a man must fit the archetype or his manliness is withdrawn.  He makes an example of how his own profession is frowned upon and, unless one writes about bullfighting like Hemingway, writing is much too feminine of a passion.

These thoughts brought me to Sedgewick’s Between MenIn her first section, “Homosocial Desire,” I kept on questioning that exact word “homosocial.”  She dives around the definition.  Her most direct explanation is “male bonding.”  I could not help but think that she was very formally discussing the the dynamics of a bromance.  When she talks about homosocial aspects for men, she talks about how it is strongly defined as separate from homosexuality, because God forbid if men complementing one another on a platonic level is confused for being gay.

When I broke this down, I felt that it could be summed up by this song from Scrubs.  Turk and JD announce their love to one another, but it’s guy love; it cannot be confused as a gay relationship.

These ideas that we get from both readings are then not quite as applicable to women.  In the song “For Good” in Wicked, you don’t hear Elphaba sing to Glinda that she’s been changed for good in the most friendly way, because it just doesn’t need to be said.  The relationships of men are clearly defined, and if the line is crossed, then that individual is no longer a man.

It is a paranoia of society.  The gender role must be fulfilled in order to fit in with everyone else. The judgment passed by others is a necessity. How else will a man know that he truly is a man?