With the transition back to Earth, the images have shifted tones. No longer vivid green, blue, brown, and pink, Earth, or at least this office building, is tonally pastel and beige. Intensity has been muted. This is a world of compliance, where emotions too must be muted.
But the man we see speaking in the first two panels is anything but muted. He’s angry. He wants to speak to someone in charge. The receptionist gives him her compliant smile and diction: “I’m certain Mr. Solanza would be delighted to speak with you…”
Mr. Solanza greets the irate Mr. Collins. Collins explains this is about his wife. She has been “detained for compliancy issues.” Mr. Collins has initiated a complaint. He attempts to tell Solanza there has been a mistake. Solanza assures him they “have safeguards against these things.” Mr. Collins then gets quite non-compliant, pointing a finger at Solanza and yelling, “Then the safeguards failed!”
A full panel of silence. Collins knows he’s crossed the line. He apologizes. Solanza, for the first time without a smile, asks, “Would you like to begin again…?” Collins puts his hands up in supplication, puts a big smile on his face, attempts to explain his non-compliant accusation. “Look, I didn’t mean to… I’m just… I’m upset, okay? There’s been a mistake and–and–you don’t ever hear about people coming back from Bitch Pla–”
Solanza, with his smile returned, scolds and corrects him. “The bureau prefers “Auxiliary Compliance Outpost.” Collins looses his smile, attempting to deal with the bureaucratic absurdity: “It’s another planet.” Solanza grins big: “Isn’t technology a wonderful thing?”
Back on Bitch Planet, a series of monitor views of the riot: yelling, hitting with batons and fists, guards unmasked, what appears to be one woman defecating in the mouth of a fallen guard and that guard vomiting it back up.
The two monitoring men discuss the “innocent” woman asking for help. They think it’s the women’s own fault for not seeing it coming, for thinking they’ve done nothing wrong. Of course, the implication to their perspective is that a woman is inherently non-compliant within the system. Just by being female, they are at fault.
The two men, both of whom are black, call attention to the fact that “of course” she’s a “white girl.” Her name is Marian Collins. She wants to talk to “someone in charge.” This is Mr. Collins’ wife–must be–same last name, same word-for-word demand of authorities.
But Marian will not get to talk to anyone as real as even Mr. Solanza. Instead, the monitoring men, who now appear to be more active in the prison experience than mere witnesses, set her up with “The Catholic.” In a moment seemingly straight out Cabin in the Woods, the one (I’m going to call them operators now) operator raves about his love for The Catholic, and the interaction shows the camaraderie they have by saying, “I look after you, don’t I?”
A panel of photography spotlights with the text: “Lights up!”
A hologram of a sexy, pink nun appears. “Marian Collins, my angel…Please step forward and confess your sins,” she says, hands together in a gesture of prayer. Like the previous hologram, she is a ludicrous parody of a real nun. She wears a strapless corset to show off her Barbie doll figure. This time a habit covers her hair.
The page finishes with a view of the other side of the spotlights. The spotlights highlight the manufactured nature of all of this. These expectations of women, the gender dichotomies, and the paradoxical standards are constructed and then reinforced by the image-makers of society.
She is the virgin-whore dichotomy writ large. She negates any mature sexuality in women, leaving only the two options: virgin or whore. The nun’s habit represents the virgin–the innocent, yet to be deflowered woman, the promise to a man of being her “first.” The sexy corset, underwear, and thigh-highs represent the whore–sexually experienced and, thus, degraded. Nowhere in dichotomy/paradox is there room for sexual maturity that is also respectable.
The hologram beckons Marian through a now subdued hallway with the condescending phrase, “Come, girl.” Marian introduces herself, the comic restating her name, showing her importance, her personhood. Her name, too, is connotatively significant. Marian, a variation on Mary, links her with the virgin-whore dichotomy, also called the Madonna-whore dichotomy. Mary, the virgin mother. The Christian paradox. It reinforces her innocence. Perhaps she truly doesn’t belong here.
But imagine, since it’s the Christmas season and all, how the Virgin Mary would have been perceived by a society that has no forgiveness for non-compliant women. She goes to her husband, a man she has not had sex with. She states she’s pregnant…by God. What is she now to him–Madonna or whore? Most of society would call her whore. Thank goodness the visit of an angel confirms her story, or she too might have been cast out.
Along the walls and railings of the hallway, small groups of women, now wearing their uniforms, stand around talking. The instructions get passed around–count the guards. This is a move of solidarity. The women can amass information together. Their information could become opportunity. When the instruction reaches Penny, she responds with a quick dose of realism: “For what? It’s a damn planet, Meiko. You ain’t gonna scale a fence and hitchhike home.” But she then turns to the woman next to her, the woman who stood up for her to the guard earlier. Instead of passing along the instructions, she asks if she knows her from somewhere. The woman doesn’t respond. Perhaps she’s unsure of what Penny is really asking–is this sincere or some veiled message?
Continued Sunday in Part IV.