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Comic Book / Fun Home

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Caption: My dad and I both grew up in the same, small Pennsylvania town. And he was gay, and I was gay. And he killed himself. And I... became a lesbian cartoonist.
Welcome to Our House on Maple Avenue

Fun Home is a 2006 comic memoir by Alison Bechdel, creator of Dykes to Watch Out For. The story focuses on her growing up in rural Pennsylvania, living under her oppressive father, Bruce, a high-school teacher and funeral home director. It also focuses on his history, how he came to be, and his lifelong project of restoring a dilapidated Victorian-era mansion. As she asserts her independence and comes to accept her orientation as a lesbian, she discovers that her father is gay and closeted. Soon after Alison comes out, he is hit by a truck, which she believes to have been suicide.

The book took seven years to make. The art was painstakingly reconstructed from family photographs, alongside the panels Alison herself posed for.

The book was followed up by Are You My Mother? which deals with Alison's relationship with her mother.

It was eventually adapted into a musical of the same name, which premiered on Broadway in 2015.

This work contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Downplayed. Bruce didn't physically abuse Alison, but he was still an awful person to her at various points in her childhood.
  • A-Cup Angst: Averted, as Alison doesn't even want her breasts to develop in the first place. And then when they do, she's unpleasantly surprised to learn they're very tender and can be quite painful to the touch.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: In-Universe. Alison and her girlfriend were fond of doing this to classic childhood literature. "God, Christopher Robin was a total imperialist!"
  • Ambiguously Gay: Alison thinks this about herself for quite a while, wondering if she can really say she's a lesbian before she's even had sex.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Bruce dies by jumping into the road in front of a truck. The truck driver says he appeared to startle at something, and the coroner deems it an accident. Alison wonders if it were a suicide, because it happened two weeks after Alison came out of the closet and her mother Helen told him she wanted a divorce (both things that would shatter the image he tried to project of a perfect Catholic family). Alison wrote the book in part to deal with the painful uncertainty of never knowing the truth.
  • Apathetic Teacher: Bruce doesn't like his job much, despite genuinely loving the books he assigns to his students. Said students don't seem to care at all. He's delighted when Alison begins taking his class, because she actually reads the books — and understands them.
  • Art Shift: For the close-ups of the photographs, Alison puts much more detail into them, making them appear more lifelike.
  • Audience Surrogate: Alison's first girlfriend Joan is just as incredulous as the reader when she sees the Bechdel family home for the first time. "You described it, but I had no idea."
  • The Beard: It's never stated explicitly, but Bruce is hinted to have married Helen to cover his homosexuality, though the follow-up Are You My Mother does briefly acknowledge he could have been bisexual.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Helen's married life was full of this: Bruce swept her off her feet during their courtship, married her . . . and then revealed himself as a complete Jerkass that cheated on her with other men, and sometimes underage boys. She admits that she's not sure how he avoided so much trouble with all of his sneaking around. Part of the reason she's upset about Alison coming out is because of Bruce's actions, and because she knows that Alison will be walking around with a stigma and a "label".
  • Black Comedy: The Bechdel kids playing in the coffins in the family funeral home, and the whole song "Come to the Fun Home" in the musical, which is a fake commercial with really dark lyrics.
  • Book Ends: Both the beginning and end of the book refer to Icarus Allusions and the imagery of flight.
  • Bookworm: One of the few things Alison and Bruce appear to have in common. Alison loves to read, to the point where what finally made her realize she was a lesbian was reading a book of interviews with LGBT people. Bruce, likewise, has a huge collection of books. At one point, they bond over their completely incredulous reaction when Alison's English professor interprets a book in a way they adamantly disagree with.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Alison does this via letter after her mother's angry response to the former coming out of the closet. She addresses the angry response point by point in typed words, saying in a nutshell, "I have no idea what you're talking about. WHAT tragedy?"
  • Chore Character Exploration: When Alison meets up with her dad after realizing he's probably gay, she casually introduces the topic of sexuality while they wash dishes together.
  • Control Freak: Bruce. In the book Alison depicts him choosing her clothes for her, even complaining how "she looks like a missionary."
  • Coming-Out Story: Alison comes to terms with her sexuality over the course of the book.
  • Common Nonsense Jury: One time Bruce did get in trouble, for "offering alcohol to a minor" instead of the actual crime, which was driving around with an underage lover at night. The judge was merciful on him and instead of making the family move, ordered that Bruce go for counseling.
  • Continuity Nod: Dykes to Watch Out For fans should be able to spot Ginger, Lois, and Harriet at the college LGBT group.
  • Corpsing:invoked Alison finds herself unable to grieve normally when hearing of her father's death. She laughs when telling her librarian boss that her father died, unable to believe that Bruce can suddenly be dead, and at the funeral she and her brothers share eerie grins.
  • The Dandy: Bruce is played straight, he is obsessed with his appearance, as well as the rest of his family.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The "limited palette" version, overlapping somewhat with Real Is Brown. The art is black-and-white line drawings, sometimes augmented with a single shade of greenish-gray.
  • Driven to Suicide: Bruce dying by stepping in front of a truck was declared an accident, but Alison wonders if he did it on purpose. As if this wasn't tragic enough, there's the strong implication that Alison herself is the one who inadvertently caused it.
  • Double Standard: Alison notes twice that society may have taught her to be more lenient on men than on women. The first is when evaluating her father, with her feelings toward him being forgiving despite his abuse. The second is when seeing his photo of Roy posed seminude, which she admits is beautiful but should be provoking anger in her like if it had been a photo of an underage girl.
    • Could also be interpreted as a case of Double Standard regarding homosexual vs. heterosexual infidelity - she would have been much angrier at her father had he cheated on her mother with women instead of men.
  • Dysfunctional Family: They all have their own issues, but Bruce takes the cake. Hell, most of Alison and Helen's issues were caused by Bruce, accidentally or otherwise.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Alison is gay. So is Bruce. Bruce kills himself four months after Alison comes out of the closet. The whole story is one big How We Got Here for all three of these conclusions.
  • Gallows Humor: The kids really enjoy displaying this; heck, they even nickname the funeral home the "Fun Home".
  • Hot for Student: Bruce had, at one point, slept with at least two of his students. The event was swept under the rug.
  • Icarus Allusion: The first chapter and then the last two pages have Alison discuss the parallel between Icarus/Daedalus and herself/her father. It's one of the major recurring themes of the book.
  • Imagine Spot: Alison has a brief imaginary outburst at her father's funeral of yelling at the mourner. The next panel cuts back to reality, where she is quiet and polite.
  • Invasion of the Baby Snatchers: In the comic, while the children and Bruce went to New York, John went wandering off by himself and a "chicken-hawk," or an older man that preys on younger boys, started following him. John got away safely. Bruce only says sternly, "Don't go out on your own again" before moving on with the trip itinerary and ostensibly going to hit on younger boys.
  • Never Trust a Title: It's short for Funeral Home, which is the family business. The home itself is rarely fun.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted; Alison gets her first period at 13, but doesn't tell anyone for several months. She also notes a fair amount of distaste for the experience, since her first few cycles look like "a slight, brown secretion".note 
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Several little asides stress this, like "Yes, it really was a Sunbeam Bread truck" and "Honest to God, we had a painting of a cockatoo in the library."
  • N-Word Privileges: Alison and Joan call themselves "dykes" multiple times. (Truth in Television - in real life, most lesbians have a "we can say it, you can't" attitude towards the word, and will understandably take offense if someone outside the community says it.)
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Helen makes the move to divorce Bruce after Alison comes out of the closet. Alison wholeheartedly supports her mother's decision when it's mentioned.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Helen's response to Alison coming out of the closet as a lesbian, and over the phone she reveals to Alison that her father was also gay.
  • Pædo Hunt: During the Bicentennial in New York, Alison's brother, John, is stalked by a pedophile. He gets away safely.
  • Parents as People: Bruce is a lousy excuse for a parent most of the time, but it's clear that he loves his kids, and sincerely thinks he's doing the right thing. Helen seems to have been a good mother for the most part, but raising three kids, dealing with Bruce, and trying to keep her own sanity intact is a near-impossible task, and it shows.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • One genuinely nice moment between Alison and Bruce, when she begins taking his English class in high school, and it quickly becomes evident that she's the only one who actually bothered to do the assigned reading. Bruce genuinely appreciates Alison's attentiveness and intelligence, and she happily discusses the reading in class.
    • While it's downplayed, Bruce does show a capacity to be affectionate or cordial to his children, such as playing airplane with Alison or reading a bedtime story. Alison argues that this just even made the family tension more unpredictable.
    Bruce: You're the only one in that class worth teaching.
    Alison: It's the only class I have worth taking.
  • Plot-Inciting Infidelity: Much of Helen's anguish is dealing with Bruce's numerous affairs. It's no picnic for Alison, either, once she finds out, which spurs her own exploration of the family and its issues.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The driver who hit Bruce saw him jump backwards from the verge and into the road. He speculates that Bruce saw a snake and was startled.
  • Sarcastic Title: Slightly subverted, as it is actually an in-family nickname for the family's funeral home.
  • Self-Deprecation: Bruce demonstrates this in his letters to Alison after she comes out, and earlier when he got caught with an underage boy and had to agree to the charge of "serving him beer". He says, "I'm not good."
  • Shout-Out: Over the course of the book Alison compares her life and its contents with most of the major literary canon, starting with Greek Mythology and ending with Ulysses. Books and plays come up a lot in this story.
  • They're Called "Personal Issues" for a Reason: Bechdel's family was upset about her talking about family secrets.
  • Title Drop: On page 36, Alison talks about her family's funeral home:
    The "Fun Home", as we called it, was up on Main Street. My grandmother lived in the front. The business was in the back.
  • Tomboy: Alison during her childhood. Her cousins even call her "Butch".
  • Tomboyish Nickname: Alison, aka, Al.
  • Trophy Child: Bechdel posits that her father only really wanted kids as props to complete his illusion of a "perfect" domestic life.
  • Unreliable Narrator: To go with the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Alison starts adding "I think" to her diary, even adding a shorthand symbol that makes her handwriting illegible.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Helen calls out Bruce multiple times, though for Alison they register as nasty fights. Case in point, when Helen reminds Bruce that John is waiting to be picked up.
  • Wham Line: In-universe, delivered by Helen over the phone: "Alison, your father has had affairs with men."
  • Wrong Assumption: When Alison comes out of the closet, she considers herself some sort of dramatic heroine. When her mother reveals that her father is also gay and closeted, she begins to feel that she's actually only the comic relief in her father's tragedy.