Now we return you to your irregularly scheduled programming: a deeper look at Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro’s Bitch Planet #4. For previous installments, see Part 1 and Part 2. As you might imagine, spoilers ahead.
Operator 1 asks Operator 2 (Schiti) what they’ve got for Megaton rules. “Hailey and Kailey,” Schiti responds. “Oh, God. All right,” the first begrudges. And they roll it.
If there was any doubt that this comic has a strong satirical aspect, the intro to Duemila video should clearly put it to rest. The title is “Il Mondo del (The World of) Duemila for
Dummies Women with Hailey & Kailey.” And on the screen, two disembodied faces with oversized mouths and pink hues say hello to each other: “Hi, Kailey!” “Hi, Hailey!” When the title screen becomes background and we see the two women in a medium long shot, they are shaped and dressed like Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders. They begin by simply discussing the proper name for the game, but then go on to express how tickled your men will be when you fool them into thinking you share their passion for Megaton and that you’ll help him succeed at the office.
There are a number of assumptions and stereotypes in this video. 1) Women are dummies (see title). 2) Women would not have any reason to care about Megaton for themselves; they should only care about the effect caring, or pretending to do so, will have on their husbands or potential male mates. 3) Proper attire for a woman wanting to convince men of her dedication to Megaton (and them) is a push-up halter top and short skirt.
The inmates are being shown this video on Bitch Planet. Kamau questions the choice with SO Whitney. “Best we could do, I’m afraid,” she responds. Kam asks about the other requests, to which Whitney says, “We’ve made a good faith gesture. Now it’s your turn.” The tension of whose play it is builds a game motif that stacks with the rules of Megaton. I can’t help think of Baudrillard with this: the simulacra of Megaton is used by the Fathers to hide the fact that society is a game.
Kamau knows this, but so does Whitney. Kamau’s next move is to ask why Whitney doesn’t wear the protective, plastic mask the other guards do. Kam mentions “protectorate militia don’t wear them,” indicating to Whitney that Kamau recognizes her as militia. Whitney says her office requires certain sacrifices, that “exposed skin builds trust.” But Kamau refutes that: “No one trusts you.” Whitney responds simply, “You will.”
The exposed skin comment makes me think of Hailey and Kailey. Which really just highlights the question of when exposed skin creates trust and when it shows vulnerability and are they different or just two ways of expressing the same idea. A scantily clad woman looks vulnerable. She gives an image of powerlessness through that exposure. Whitney’s exposure is finely measured out to promote trust but not powerlessness.
Meanwhile the guards are setting up barriers along the open gym floor.
Back to the video in a two-page spread. Now Hailey and Kailey are getting into the rules of the game. The two of them are captured in cheerleader poses. Meanwhile, the rest of the bodies in the video are male athletes. They are also wearing halter tops and short shorts. It shows off their muscles. The effect isn’t quite the same as with the women–the skin exposure doesn’t make them look vulnerable, largely because they are drawn in athletic poses accentuating their muscles. But don’t be mistaken, they are still objectified. These men are entertainers. They can gain judges favor through athleticism or showmanship. They are tools for making money and focusing society. They distract society from recognizing that their lives are also a game.