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Busting Out: Contextualizing ‘Bitch Planet’ with Women-in-Prison Films

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Caged_Heat_film_posterI sort-of assume most of the readership for Bitch Planet is younger than I am (in my late 30’s), and that being the case, I also assume they mostly don’t have a sense of the genre Bitch Planet is wrestling with (I didn’t). The genre–women-in-prison–initially was one of those social lesson films, something akin to Reefer Madness. But those films became cult classics because of the exploitative nature of them. Though they attempted to show the awful consequences of a certain lifestyle, they also allowed for a odd voyeurism into those worlds–the world of drug use or prison life. That showed film-makers and producers that there was money to be made in exploiting these stories, and the women-in-prison films got more sexual, more violent, and more misogynistic. But there was a point where the tables turned, and some of those exploitation films became almost feminist as they showed the women coming together and working against the system. Bitch Planet comes at the end this tradition. I highly recommend watching the video essay by Manohla Dargis, Dawn Fratini, and Jen Moorman embedded in the link to see a discussion of this tradition and iconic films in the genre.

It is well worth it.


Author: Erin Perry

I'm a high school English teacher specializing in AP Literature and Film Analysis. I'm interested in most things geeky, including superheroes, vampires, zombies, teen culture, postmodern philosophy, pop culture analysis, and combinations of the aforementioned. Follow me on Twitter @eriuperry.

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