So the second ‘book’ that I’ve read this month was the graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Colour. I’m sure that people have heard of the movie adaptation that came out 2013, that made a lot of news mainly for featuring a lesbian couple, something that hadn’t been very popular on the big screen, or that tends to be reduced to a very one-dimensional relationship. I randomly stumbled on the graphic novel in my office and decided to read it as a break from my work.
I went in knowing that there was a gay couple – that’s all I knew. And I have to say in a lot ways it was super impressive. I loved how much the novel addressed homophobia and how it manifests in so many ways. First of all there was Clementine’s internalized homophobia, and I’m so glad they addressed it, and then there was also the external homophobia that many queer people face on the daily. I feel like when queerness is introduced into a novel many times it comes as an easy transition – the people around the queer character immediately accept them, the queer person is happy in their choice to come out, and everything is really great. But BITWC shows such a different side of someone’s coming out – Clementine is thrown out of her house by her homophobic parents, some of her friends shun and shame her, and she struggles with her own idea of herself as someone who is dating a woman but doesn’t necessarily identify as a lesbian, and finds that she doesn’t want to. There’s so many points in the novel where Clementine and Emma fight because Clem doesn’t want to be or isn’t comfortable with being called a lesbian, and I think it’s really heartbreaking to see her struggle with loving the woman she loves and also coming to terms with that.
Building off of that point, Emma and Clementine do fight – we see it happen a lot, and I think it’s really healthy to show a non-idealized queer relationship. They fight, they make up, and they keep going because their love is stronger than the small mistakes or fights they have. And also, this was great representation for the French queers out there. France, as shown in the novel, can be very homophobic, and the setting of France in this novel helps to illuminate the strife that queer people can face in places that aren’t LBGTQ friendly.
But, I also had a lot of issues with this book. First of all being that Clementine dies. Ah, yes, the classic lesbian dies to make it tragic. I was so annoyed because we see her take a pill once or twice before she suddenly has a life threatening and ultimately fatal heart defect, that to me appeared out of nowhere. The doctor said it was caused by extreme drug use, but we see her take a single drug maybe three pages before she is hospitalized, and this to me seems to be an attempt to add tragedy to this love story. But I just want to ask (and I’m sure everyone was also wondering this) – why did it have to be tragic? Why couldn’t Emma and Clementine have had they fight, and Emma is hospitalized, and over the course of her recovery they rebuild their relationship? Not every gay love story needs to be a tragedy.
Another issue I had was the extreme lack of people of colour. Every single person in this book was white. Even in Clementine’s school, in the gay bar, in the public places, there was not a visibly POC character. In the 21st century I think we just need to come out and say that its inexcusable to not have a single POC character in a book, and it’s only marginally better to have a single person of colour as a token of good will. The best solution is to be reflective of the world around us, and understand that white people and POC people exist equally in our world and should be equally represented in our media.
And finally, there was the issue of the age gap to me. When Clem and Emma meet, Clem is in grade 11 I think and Emma is in her 4th year of university. Now five years, once people are adults, may not be such a huge deal, but I firmly believe that an age gap of this size is not acceptable while one is in high school or university. Just write people to be more close in age. This trope is for some reason really popular in queer media, such as Call me by Your Name the movie that came out this year featuring Armie Hammer (except the age gap is even worse in that movie and I don’t want to think about a Medical student in their late twenties falling for a 16 year old). And I think that this trope has the potentially to show the queer community in a negative light. “Older gays prey on younger people” your homophobic aunt Harriet-Linda says, and uses this to fuel her hatred. All I’m saying is that beautiful and healthy queer relationships don’t need a 5+ year age gap to be shown in the media. Look at the novel “I’ll Give You the Sun” or “Carry On” – two great books that feature queer couples who are the same age. I love the gays and I love them even more when there isn’t a creepy age gap.
But, I’m not one to complain about representation. I think it was overall a good read, and I enjoyed seeing Clem and Emma being happy, even if it wasn’t a happy ending. But, we can only go up from here – all these unhappy gay endings make me want to write my own book even more!
Anyways, that’s all from me, and I hope you have a good week ducks!
Until next time!