Today, I was looking for themes that span across our readings for the semester. Something that hit me while I was skimming our books is the theme of flawed protectors. We see characters who take on the role of guardian or champion for someone less “able,” but there are often multiple layers to the portrayal that complicate our understanding of the protector and the protected. Some examples:
In Contract with God, we had the character who “saves” a young girl from rape and promises to marry her. This good deed was complicated when we find out that she wasn’t really raped, and that perhaps he was using the young woman’s distress to his advantage, in a manner that is similar to the rape, but perhaps more societally accepted. Even in Obadiah Oldbuck, our protagonist tries to “save” his love, but fails abysmally on a regular basis. Even when he succeeds, we’re discomfited by his treatment of her as a prize, without autonomy of her own. I could write about this theme’s presence in Watchmen for hours. Suffice it to say, when the Watchmen aren’t watched, bad things happen. The protectors of the city are flawed human beings like everyone else.
Another quick theme I want to touch on — nudity. Think about it. It was present in The City, Watchmen, Asterios Polyp, and now in Fun Home. As an English major, I’m used to reading about all kinds of scenes in literature, and nudity has ceased to bother me. But in a graphic novel, there’s a different kind of “graphic” aspect to get accustomed to. The first time one of our books portrayed nudity, I was a little startled and uncomfortable. But as we’ve progressed, I realized that the stories we’ve been reading are very honest, even gritty. These stories portray every aspect of life with equal diligence and honesty. Everyday scenes of bodies existing naturally (such as the love scenes or the montage of Hana moments in AP, the love scene between Alison and Joan in Fun Home, etc.) are reliably shown in a manner that doesn’t either glorify or vilify them. They’re just part of life.
What other themes can we see across our books? If you have anything else that stands out to you, please comment below and let’s talk about it!