Alison Bechdel is a cartoonist and writer, known for her Dykes to Watch Out For strip and her graphic memoirs, Fun Home and Are You My Mother? The first of these memoirs has been turned into a musical, which will premiere on Oct. 22 in New York.
This event has prompted an article in Slate, entitled “Fun Home: Is America Ready for a Musical About a Butch Lesbian?” It seems to me that this may be a bit of deck-stacking. I’ve never been a big fan of musicals anyway — when I was a kid, I would get bored out of my skull during the song numbers in Disney cartoons. That being said, I think the larger question is whether or not the show is any good. This article lays the groundwork for some audience-blaming if the show fails (which many shows do, after all.) If the audience stays away in droves, it is implied, they just weren’t ready — they hadn’t ripened yet, or were insufficiently mature or somehow otherwise unworthy. The idea that the show might fail or succeed on its own merits doesn’t seem to enter the discussion.
As a writer, I find this a bit cowardly. Someone I respect a great deal recently read Broken Glass Waltzes, and while he found things to praise, he felt he couldn’t really approve of the book because of the sex and violence. I think that’s entirely fair. Either the audience likes the juggling we clowns do, or it doesn’t. And that’s okay. I’m not entitled to have my book liked. Similarly, no musical — regardless of the subject matter — should get a free pass. Do your best work. If nobody likes it, do better work. But don’t just assume that your work deserves praise — or even acceptance — just because of its existence. That’s snowflake thinking; it’s cant.
And we should never be ready for that.
A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to Mike Monson, via Facebook.