Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Review/Discussion: Blue is the Warmest Colour by Julie Maroh

Blue is the Warmest Colour
by Julie Maroh
Summary: Blue is the Warmest Color is a graphic novel about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine find herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, and her own ideas about herself and her identity.
This graphic novel has been on my radar for a really long time, and I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick it up...but I finally did. And I sort of loved it, but I also had a couple of issues with it.

Let's start with the easy stuff: the artwork. The artwork in this is absolutely stunning. I loved that aspect of it -- the drawings, the colour palette...all of it.

I loved the characters so much. When it comes to graphic novels, I usually don't feel like the characters have gotten under my skin the way they do when I read a good novel, but the characters in this...they burrowed right under my skin and made themselves at home. They felt realistic and I felt for them -- I was happy for their happiness and sad right along with their sadness.

And the story... The story started out so well. The majority of it was done beautifully, especially Clementine coming to terms with her sexuality, her struggle with it, then acceptance of it... I loved that. And I loved her relationship with Emma and the fact it showed the ups and the downs, instead of
just the good parts.

It went downhill a bit towards the end though. The thing is, we know what's going to happen right from the start, just not the specifics of it...and when it got to the specifics, the execution of it felt rushed (in spite of us knowing it would happen) and contrived and like the way it was told didn't measure up to the high standards set by the earlier parts of the book.

Now, onto the complicated bit (and there will be some spoilers), the bit that makes me feel the need to say "I loved it, but" rather than just saying I loved it...

There was a kind of biphobic tone to the book. Maybe I misjudged that, but it's just how it came across to me while reading. The reason it bothered me was that it felt like the author didn't even realise she was doing it... like it wasn't this thing deliberately written into the story and acknowledged.

For example: there's a scene with Emma and Clementine, and Emma basically says the reason she's been holding back with Emma is because she thinks that Clem would eventually leave her for a guy, kind of implying that her feelings were just a phase or something. And then later in the story, it reinforces the stereotype that bisexual women cheat on their girlfriends with men and it doesn't really go into why she did instead of giving some other reason for that to have happened, it literally just is a stereotype with nothing more to it.

Also, it's never really confirmed whether Clem actually is bisexual or not...there are things that imply it (the inclusion of biphobic stereotypes in relation to her character adds to that) but the word isn't really used. But even if she isn't, it doesn't change the biphobia that actually is present in the story (if anything, it adds to it because bi erasure is a thing, so implying that she's bi in the story without actually using the word, well...).

Did that make me hate the book? No. But it did bother me a bit.

And then there's the Dead Lesbians/Bury Your Gays trope. Now, the fact that it was written by a lesbian makes it bother me slightly less...but still, it was poorly executed and the story doesn't exist in a vacuum and the fact that the story contains that trope makes it just another of many stories where the lesbian couple is torn apart by death. It didn't make me angry, the way it would had a straight person written it, but it did disappoint me.

I guess that's all I have to say about it. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5. I still really recommend it, for all the stuff it gets right. If anyone has any thoughts re: biphobia in the story/on the Dead Lesbians trope, let me know?


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