Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dykes to Watch Out For

"...I've never intended my cartoons to be only for dykes. Yes, they're about dykes. So? Surely if I could sit through a Bruce Willis movie, Joe Blow could read a lesbian comic strip."
--Alison Bechdel

This is slightly random, but has anyone read Dykes to Watch Out For? Yesterday I picked up Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life Forms to Watch Out For, which I believe is the last book in the series. Usually that would make a book unbearably confusing, but all the characters are explained in the beginning so it's not too hard to follow. I would've read it all in one sitting, but I had to go somewhere. While I was out, I just kept thinking, "I want to go home and finish the book!" Although the comics are amusing, I think I liked the political aspect the most. It isn't preachy, but it's there. I can't remember ever reading a work of fiction that dealt with the issues around coping as a leftist in America and all the inevitable disappointment and frustration that it brings. Okay, that was a long sentence. There are also other layers, like the characters' attempts to reconcile their radical queer identities with the fact that "Best Lesbian Erotica is now sold at 7-11" and many in their group are marrying and having kids.


[Image: Comic panel depicting, among other things, one drag king asking another for a tampon.]


I also loved the density of the comic panels themselves. You can see what's on the character's shelves, such as St. John's wort and "Tom's of Finland curry-flavored" toothpaste, as well as the headlines of the newspapers they read ("Disease will be eradicated! Static cling banished!"). While the comic is often hailed as being very true to life, is there really any enclave where everyone works at a non-profit, college, or feminist bookstore? (Although, the bookstore is in danger thanks to "Medusa.com".) It seems like no matter how much the characters are doing to live out their values, it's never enough. For instance, Mo wonders why she's going to a class rather than "doing non-violent direct action!". It seems funny on the page, but I've wondered the same type of thing. There's an interesting tension between the insularity of the characters' progressive friend group and the current events they can't ignore.

6 comments:

ladypoetess said...

I've read & enjoyed it for years - and I follow Bechdel on my RSS reader, just in case more comics get made/posted. ^^

Anonymous said...

Yes! I've enjoyed her cartoons specifically for the political commentary and the queer, but not-overly-sexualized drama. They're also just plain funny :-)

~Carsonspire

Fellmama said...

LOVE DTWOF. I've been a regular reader since I was probably, oh, eight years old, thanks to the Funny Times. Or was, anyway; I'm still sad that Bechdel chose to stop drawing it. (Have you read Fun Home? You'd like it, I think.)

As for an "enclave where everyone works at a non-profit, college, or feminist bookstore," the strip is set in a fictionalized version of Ithaca and . . . yup. Nailed it.

Ily said...

Yay! I want to borrow more of the books, although it would need to be on some day when I have nothing else to do...ha.

@Fellmama, I didn't know it was based on Ithaca...interesting. Now that the economy is even worse, I wonder if any of the characters would be forced into more "conventional" jobs. I haven't yet checked out Fun Home.

TheJester said...

Thought you might be interested in this article, as aces we get told we must have low hormones or something, this girl has a condition were she has NO HORMONES at all- she 17 and hasn't gone though puberty yet:
http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/3829707/Teen-trapped-in-body-of-a-10-year-old.html

Ily said...

@TheJester: Wow, as someone who looks younger than they are, I really feel for the person in this article. (And of course, all the health risks of their condition are scary too!) It's interesting how the article seems to be implying that hormones are somehow involved in people's interest in makeup, Justin Beiber and such. Because asexual or not, we probably all know people who went through puberty and yet never had an interest in that kind of stuff.