Imagine it’s not your best day. Maybe you’re wearing
sweatpants or don’t want to hold doors open for people or even say something to
the guy who walks right into you.
Now imagine being reprimanded for those things – not in the
sense that someone says something back to you, but actually reprimanded. It’s
noted in your record and you’re expected to correct it. If the action persists,
you’ll be sent off to a holding area designed for people just like you. Got it?
Good. Now you’re on Bitch Planet.
Bitch Planet is
brought to us through Image from writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro. If it seems outrageous to be thrown behind bars for elastic in your pants, that’s because it is. It’s a
feminist dystopian book where noncompliant women are sent to an entirely
different planet because of their shortcomings. The men who send them there
were likely toddlers of anal retentive parents who, normally, you’d see and think, “Damn, that poor kid doesn’t have a shot.” Except, in this reality, they’re
the majority, and so the world spins with them.
There are plenty of reasons to get behind Bitch Planet, namely the female lead, Kamau, who punches like Ali and plans like Bond. She also isn’t the only woman willing to fight – the women there don’t view their noncompliance as problematic, so they’re enthusiastic to keep it up. The context of their comic reality is that it doesn’t work, like numerous social structures in the real world. And though their actions are poignant, what’s more is the beauty in how DeConnick simply writes the Fathers, the group of embarrassing men in power.
It’s important to acknowledge the
difference between “simply” and “plainly” here: “simply” requires couth to be
successful; “plainly,” not so much. She uses grotesque invective and a host of
other satirical devices to convey the reality women are often up against as a result of decisions made by the Fathers. It’s
why no one bats an eye when a high-ranking white male answers his cell phone at
a funeral, even when he does so by saying, “Yyyello” like he’s in the Simpsons.
It’s a heavy-handed elegance that isn’t supposed to make any sense, but does.
The same J.O. rails on people, namely women, who make the
time to exercise by saying “you’d be surprised how fit you can get when you
don’t have a J-O-B.” He’s a walking, talking lawsuit that can never happen
because he’s just one of countless Fathers making sure the right vision is
carried out. Fathers of vision don’t historically fare well when they act like
the ones in Bitch Planet, but it’s a
power game. They’re like a great pitcher throwing a spitball. Like, come on, man.
You’re hard enough to hit as is.
Beyond the Fathers, DeConnick writes some killer
exposition with radio voices and loudspeaker commands. In one instance, a
voiceover says, “[a]sk me, I’d say the contemplation of boredom is an
indulgence that argues for the guillotine.” Like we should be so happy to be
bored should it happen to us. Applying sentiment like “you should be happy to
have what you do” to people long deflated and oppressed is an astonishing
statement of privilege. When it’s made effortlessly, it only emphasizes disconnect from level ground.
While these instances alone highlight a skill of DeConnick, together they show how these things are actually happening, that they’re real obstacles women deal with. And they do it by channeling the essence of Monty Python. In the world of comics, one fueled by sales and that will propagate the same kinds of products for dollars, Bitch Planet shouldn’t even exist. But the combined strength of the cast and finesse of the writing make the point: be what you need. Get angry at unrighteous consequence. Acknowledge the absurd by doing something about it.
And now, your free, original comic!