Wednesday, 16 January 2008

58 - Shary Flenniken: "Child of Divorce"

Child of Divorce1

Child of Divorce2

Child of Divorce3

Child of Divorce4

in 'National Lampoon', May 1980

Showing gay parents is probably a relatively novel or even daring thing to do for this time. Even Alison Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out For” dates from 1983. None of the portrayals are offensive or too clich├ęd, and the emphasis on the parent discussing sexual politics with their child is the point of the joke. So, homosexual parents raise, if not an outright homosexual kid, then certainly a prissy drama queen, who has difficulty even knowing what the typical gender role should be. Well, Anita Bryant would probably agree with that. However, that the flamingness of the child is played off against the gay parents wanting to camouflage it, is some deeper level of irony. This strip could probably have appeared anytime in the last 28 years and it still seems relatively fresh. Only the hairstyles and furniture date it. Flenniken is fairly good on working up a dramatic twists for when each of the assorted partners and parents makes their appearance.

The balance and thoughtfulness of this comic stands out bu comparison, when about a year earlier the editor, P.J. O’Rourke, can casually make a throwaway remark about “stinky divorced lesbian women who raise their sons as queers”.


Chad said...

I wonder if there's another level of irony here. It's interesting how Marshal is effeminate, but he *does* have an obvious masculine role model at home, his mom's girlfriend. While his father acts like a stern patriarch at first, by the last panel he's giving a feminine retort.

I'm inclined to think it's accidental, but in the way it uses gay stereotypes and gender anxieties to make a joke the strip does raise an interesting question: how can a lesbian mother cause "gender confusion" in her son if she and her girlfriend are total gender inverts themselves?

Shary said...

Well, I'll tell you how that came about, as best I can remember. Lampoon had themes for each issue. This one must have been gays or kids, maybe parents. I'm fairly thorough about researching these stories because I really don't believe in putting garbage out into the world. There is too much bad, boring art and music to sift through, don't you think? So at least, I have to feel that what I am saying has some value to whoever reads it. For this strip... I was walking around the East Village with a couple I knew. The woman had been gay, bi, I guess really, she went to Mills College and there was alot of gender identity seeking going on there. So I asked her what she thought the biggest issue was for gay parents, and she said right off the bat that they worry about the masculinity of their boy children. That about sums it up right there. Pre-AIDS, in 1980 all things gay seemed alot more light-hearted. I really enjoyed reading your comments! Thanks. ...Shary Flenniken