Is the 'Fun Home' National Tour De-Butching Itself?
I'm going to start this column by stating one very important fact, I know nothing about the nuances of "butch lesbian fashion". I wouldn't be able to say what is properly butch and not butch. So with this column, I'm just going to present the situation and let you, who might know better than I, decide.
The first national tour is Fun Home is getting tremendous reviews. However, one major costume change seems to be upsetting more than a few audience members. One the blog, Sinister woman, one audience member is calling out the costume change as an example of how they are "de-butching" the role of Alison.
The writer states(she doesn't use capital letters or her name on the blog. Two things that annoy me),
it seems that someone confused “butch” with “unfashionable,” two words with absolutely no correlation. they changed alison’s shirt to a weird, possibly chiffon vertical striped monstrosity, unbuttoned to show a camisole, covered by a weird athletic jacket type thing, gave her fitted jeans, and a necklace and earrings. in recent pictures, it seems to me that she also hasn’t cut her hair in a while, which contributes to an even more feminine vibe overall. i guess some of these changes are insignificant on their own, but together the result is that the character is no longer really butch at all.
For context, here is a side by side comparison of Beth Malone in the Broadway production and Kate Shindle in the national tour.
As I mentioned above, I have no say in this whatsoever because I'm not knowledgeable about whether or not this is properly butch. It is important to note that the same costume designer, David Zinn, designed both the Broadway and National Tour.
Sinister Woman continues,
"whatever the reason for these changes, many lesbian fans of bechdel’s writing and the show feel hurt, betrayed, and misrepresented. bechdel is a real person, a member of a real group of people, a group that is desperate for accurate and affirming representation in the media. fun home is a show for everyone, but it means more to lesbians than any straight person can understand. i wish that the tour production team was more conscious of that."
For me, I can at least understand where Sinister Woman is coming from. Fun Home is one of those rare shows that brings fans from two different industries together. I completely understand how fans of the musical and fans of the comic book might react differently to seeing the adaptation.
But the discussion and controversy surrounding the costume change apparently has intensified so much that co-creator Lisa Kron has responded. On the show's website, Kron admits that it was her decision for the costume change. The decision largely had to do with the fact that Beth Malone and Kate Shindle have two different body types.
"She has a very different body than Beth Malone, however. She’s a curvy amazon, and on her frame the effect of this same costume was completely different – somehow neither swaggery butch nor, thanks to her character-appropriate sports bra, quite sporty femme either. Kate, total pro that she is, didn’t question the costume. I went to David Zinn, our costume designer, and said, “A butch woman with that build would not wear that outfit. Can we please find a new version of this costume that looks like what a butch woman with that long, tall, busty body would choose for herself?” He agreed, and that is how the decision was made to change the costume."
You can read her full statement here.
So what do you think? Do you feel that the costume change somehow changes the character of "Large Alison"? Is this an example of "pink-washing"?
Again, I'll let you decide.