The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For
by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008)

It's hard to describe the effect Alison Bechdel's comic strip has had on popular culture, and not just LBGT culture. It is, first of all, a great introduction to a world unknown to most straight people, dealing, as it does, in characters, not stereotypes.

This narrative, which stretches over two decades, featured strong, compelling women with interesting, complex lives. It was also groundbreaking for the forthright, thoughtful, and realistic way in which it engaged topics of significance not only to LBGT people but to everyone. Many hot-button issues, such as transgender identity, gays fitting into mainstream society, the role of small businesses and sexism are obviously still relevant. Bechdel's sharp observations and intricate, elegant phrasing is highlighted with a sense of humor that keeps things on the dramedy level.

You don't need to be gay to enjoy the sometimes hysterical tension and chaos of daily life, and you don't need knowledge of politics to follow the details of her observations.

After 25 years, Bechdel suspended her comic, which gave her more room to work on her two great graphic novels, Fun Home and Are You My Mother. As it is, her legacy thus far has three-dimensional lesbians -- and all sorts of people, really -- with real problems, blended with insightful philosophy and a nuanced, multifaceted narrative that encompasses complex political analysis and human drama by the bucketfuls. Bechdel is in the same league with Doonesbury, Bloom County and For Better or for Worse, all long-running comics whose characters age and grow and whose real-life experiences make you revisit your own beliefs.

review by
Mary Harvey

5 April 2014

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new