Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bitch Planet #1 - A Review

To say that Bitch Planet defied my expectations would be an understatement. The series was originally described to me as as a satire of sexploitation - a feminist reworking of the classic Grindhouse pictures of yore, specifically targeting movies like Black Mama White Mama and Chained Heat with a sci-fi twist. Technically that is true, but it is as helpful in describing this series as saying that the sun as "a big hot thing that can kill you."

In truth, I'm reluctant to describe Bitch Planet as science-fiction because of the optimistic connotations that go along with that phrase. Yes, it does take place in the future on another planet, but this is not Star Trek. The world of Bitch Planet is no Utopia, unless you're a Gamergate supporter or an Evangelic Christian. Let us instead call it Future Fiction, for the story of Bitch Planet is a cautionary tale akin to It Can't Happen Here or The Handmaiden's Tale.

We don't get any details of how this Earth came into existence. In truth, we don't need any. It is enough for us to know that, on this version of Earth, women who fail to conform to society's expectations are shot into space and put to work off-world on an "auxiliary compliance outpost" known as Bitch Planet.  This goes beyond simply sending away murderers and career criminals - it also includes sending away feminists, women who are overweight and wives who fail to submit to their husband's authority! Or wives whose husbands got sick of them and decided to trade them in for a newer model.

Far-fetched? Not really. As an essay by Danielle Henderson of Feminist Ryan Gosling in the back of the book notes, what we see in Bitch Planet is only a slight exaggeration of what is expected of women in modern American culture.  Any woman who fails to live up to the zeitgeist of what is proper runs the risk of becoming an outcast of the culture. And while Kelly Sue DeConnick explores these issues in the midst of a prison riot in space, that does not make the reality of these issues any less serious.

The artwork by Valentine De Landro subtly evokes the same B-movie aesthetic as the script.  For instance, the point-of-view shots linger on nude women in the background but are more modestly framed in the close-ups.  It is a small touch, but one that emulates a time-honored technique used in exploitation films, as the creators could argue with the censors that you really couldn't see the nudity if it is further away.

There is much to recommend Bitch Planet beyond its artistry in emulating the worst aspects of a low art-form. It stands on its own merits as a warning, a satire and a ripping yarn. And if nothing else, it is worth buying in order to piss off some people who need to be pissed off on a regular basis.

No comments:

Post a Comment