Jobs, living arrangements, and relationships are changing for Alison Bechdel’s diverse and colorful cast of characters in Split-Level Dykes to Watch Out For. When their communal residence is sold out from under them, Ginger, Lois, and Sparrow decide to buy the house themselves and accept Sparrow’s boyfriend as a new addition. The newly formed couple, Mo and Sydney, decide to live together to save expenses. Toni, Clarice, and their son get ready to move from their small apartment into white suburbia. Clarice and Ginger become preoccupied with their past together. After her mom’s funeral, Jezanna comes home with a new housemate- her father. The chaotic moving day finally arrives and the friends bridge the “demographic rift” with a communal moving truck.
Everything is fair game in the satirical comic book about life in the nineties. Bechdel stabs at stereotypes, gender roles, racism, other “isms”, and a slew of other subjects. Along with homophobia, Bechdel portrays heterosexism through Ginger and Lois, who rag on Sparrow about her choice to bat for the other team. She in turn questions herself and her relationship with Stuart. Jezanna is concerned about how the new chain store, Bounders Books-N-Muzak, will effect the business at her Madwimmin Books. Conversion of gays, Clinton’s impeachment, deflation, and world affairs are among the topics discussed by the characters and media headlines.
Begun in 1983, Dykes to Watch Out For represented lesbians in pop culture long before the L-Word aired and did so in a more realistic fashion. The three-dimensional comics are humorous yet thought provoking and all around entertaining. Bechdel retired the syndicated comic strip in 2008 when she felt its characters were getting too narrow and wanted to focus her energies on other projects.
I’ve read bits and pieces of Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For books through the years, but never from cover to cover. Reading them as a novel works better and is more enjoyable than just reading the independent strips. I’d have no problem unloading more of Bechdel’s comic books from my friends, who were coincidentally moving at the time I acquired Split-Level. Recommended.
Number three for the GLBT reading challenge, done.