As I mentioned in the previous post, here there be spoilers. Find Part I here.
The spread on pages 2-3 depicts the transition from the “free world” to incarceration via the voice recording by our nameless page 1 woman. Although she is supposed to be a “history teacher,” she is presenting a revisionary creation myth. No longer is Earth “Mother Earth.” Now that life on other planets is possible, space has become the Mother. Earth is the Father that is casting these women out. They have trespassed against the Father through gluttony, pride, weakness, and wickedness. The six naked female transports have sinned against the Patriarchy. Their sins include radicalism and murder. Radicalism seems to include extreme obesity, suggesting that one’s body is perceived as a place of rebellion.
One woman voluntarily chose to go to prison, and the two black men monitoring the prisoners label her crazy. She appears to be the only one awake. Her alertness makes her seem more aware of what’s happening here. Perhaps she’s the sane one, choosing to shuttle off to a women’s prison rather than stay in the “free world.”
They have been deemed beyond correction or redemption. They must be removed from Earth, “lest [their] sickness spread.”
The women arrive at the “Auxilary Compliance Outpost,” the official name for Bitch Planet. They are wet and naked, as if reborn after their space travel. They look up at a female hologram greeting them and instructing them towards stalls with uniforms. She ends her speech with, “Non-compliance is not recommended.” An incoming prisoner states, “I hate that bitch.” Another replies, “We all do. That’s why they use her.” The hologram displays the body type often found in comic books–bulbous lips and boobs, cleavage from sternum to armpits, barely there clothing, big hair. She is pink and white, and her oversized image makes the page as a whole mostly pink. Juxtaposed with the naked prisoners, the hologram’s sexualization is obvious and absurd. Her sexiness is out of context and thus made ridiculous.
Who is she supposed to be seducing? The prisoners, of course–who else? Like the models in a women’s magazine, she is meant to seduce them into compliance. They are meant to look at her and want to look like her. Through purchase of cosmetics, high heels, corsets, and skirts which will limit their movements, through diet which will make them physically weaker. If that is unattainable, they are meant to hate themselves for not looking like her and undermine their own confidence and power.
In contrast to page 6, page 7 is blue and green. The focus is on an extremely obese black prisoner named Penelope Rolle. She is the antithesis of the hologram’s “beauty.” Penny might stand as tall as the hologram–she’s easily a foot taller than the guards. She is muscular and fat with a half shaved head and a tattoo on her bicep that reads, “born BIG.” She receives a uniform that she identifies as too small for her body–“Where am I supposed to put my OTHER tit?” The guard tells her the uniforms were constructed specifically for their body measurements. Penelope talks back, saying the uniform “ain’t gonna fit.” Another guard tells her to put the uniform on and proceed down the concourse. Penelope gets insistent: “Bitch, I know my size!” Behind her a guard raises his club to hit her over the back of the head. Another prisoner covers her eyes.
Penny’s size is threatening to the society of Earth, and it continues to be a point of non-compliance at the prison. But the uniform won’t fit because her size is more than her measurements. Her power is in her non-compliance with the beauty standards, her absolute confidence of who she is–with no reference to her value to men. Her obesity does not equate to weakness. She exudes strength.
The top panel brings the expected clubbing by the guard. He knocks Penny down, cracks her skull, makes her bleed.
Unlike the woman who covered her face to avoid seeing this abuse of power, a new woman with wild hair and a confident stance calls out the guard: “She didn’t raise a hand to you.” “And now she won’t. Any questions?” he responds. But now Penny is getting up behind him. “Yeah…” she begins, “Where’m I s’posed to put my tits?!” She hits him so hard, it knocks off his mask and helmet.
By removing his helmet, she also diminishes his power. He is no longer an uncanny authority figure. Now he is just a man.
Penny’s name connotes the smallest amount in US currency, the least of the capitalist system. Certainly that’s how Earth society values her. She might be dismissed on Earth, insulted and viewed condescendingly, but her power comes from within, not within the system.
Her show of power incites a riot in the prison. Naked female bodies throwing kicks and punches against, black-clad, faceless male guards. One of the two men monitoring the situation declare this is a new record: 2 minutes. Yes, Penny is powerful. No wonder she was declared non-compliant and shipped off planet. Her “disease”–female power–spreads quickly.
The other monitoring man jokes, “Cue the innocent. Which one is it gonna be?” A blonde, white woman attempts to flee the melee. “I don’t belong here. I don’t deserve this. You have to help me, please–” Traditionally protected by patriarchal society, as long as she stays compliant, this woman assumes asking for help will work. The answer she receives shows the truth of the system. A guard cracks her on the back of the head, because now she has been deemed non-compliant, her traditional Western beauty will not save her. The panels go black–her point of view becomes the transition back to Earth. “…No one deserves this.”
To be continued in Part III.