Mimosa by Archie Bongiovanni is a graphic novel that follows four Minneapolis queers after they’ve made the rough transition from their halcyon twenties into their “dirty thirties.” Initially bonded a decade earlier thanks to their shared status as the only queer people working at a restaurant called Chatter Square, the quartet maintains their relationship with a regularly scheduled ongoing brunch date.
However, in spite of the longevity of their friendship, the winds of change are blowing, and as must inevitably happen with so many relationships forged out of necessity, this one must either evolve or become extinct. But what I most appreciated about Mimosa was its willingness to allow the privileged Alex’s participation in the friend group to go the way of intelligent political discourse.
One of the most effective ways of explaining the concept of privilege is through metaphor. In the essay “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies,” Peggy McIntosh compared privilege to an “invisible knapsack.”
This knapsack is filled with tools that are equally invisible to the individual who enjoys the privilege. Throughout an individual’s day, these invisible tools allow them to access certain opportunities without difficulty. However, because these tools are invisible, the person who enjoys the privilege may not even recognize they have it in their possession.
McIntosh’s essay described the “invisible knapsack” through the lens of male privilege, examining the invisible tools that men enjoy each day, which a man will not be cognizant of unless he has taken the time to consider his position of extreme privilege. The essay proceeds to explain how McIntosh applied a prism of self-examination to her own life and found her own “invisible knapsack”: one she possesses as a white woman, thereby giving her access to the “invisible tools” possessed by all of us with white privilege.
In Mimosa, an irreconcilable disparity in privilege is embodied through the implosion of the friendship between Alex and the rest of the friend group, but especially Josephine. This implosion transpires after Alex reveals that he enjoys the immense privilege wrought by the possession of a trust fund, to which he gained access at age 25.
Thanks to this privilege, Alex is able to retire from serving and focus on his art full-time. In order to ensure the power dynamics of the friend group don’t change, he conceals this privilege from Chris, Jo, and Elise. In fact, he even outright lies about it, claiming he’s “broke,” and regularly allows his less-financially privileged peers to pay for his coffees and other incidental expenses.
When the other three friends find out, they are all angry – especially Jo. “I was constantly late on my rent,” Jo shouts at Alex. “I was swimming in credit card debt! I had – wait, have – multiple jobs! My god, you could have helped me!”
She continues, specifically highlighting the intersectional angle of the fact that, as a trans woman of color, she doesn’t have the privilege of having the money to easily afford access to necessary medical transition treatment: “Hell! You could have helped me pay for hormones, Alex! Maybe I wouldn’t have had to start camming.”
The End of the Mimosa
Even once the truth of the trust fund has been revealed, Alex still refuses to acknowledge his privilege. Furthermore, rather than do anything to amend the situation, the unrepentant Alex continues to prioritize his own pleasure and ignore the pleas for help issued by his friends.
Fortunately, Mimosa never suggests that the anger felt by Alex’s former friends – especially Jo – is anything short of justified. By the conclusion of the graphic novel, Alex is still just kind of a privileged piece of shit. This is an honest depiction of many privileged people, with their attendant lack of desire to better understand the reality of their “invisible knapsack,” lest they risk yielding one of their “invisible tools” to anyone other than themselves.
At the end of the day, the anger experienced by Jo over the inherent injustice in the inequality of privilege is righteous, and nothing can take that away. Mimosa tells a compelling story that adheres to this harsh reality.
Mimosa is currently available from Surely Books.