We here at Lady Geek Girl and Friends are big fans of the feminist re-do, in which a creator takes a formerly problematic trope, character, or plot, and twists it in some way to make it subversive and progressive. It makes sense, then, that I absolutely adored the new comic Bitch Planet.
Bitch Planet is a feminist re-do of exploitation films set in women’s prisons: rather than we as an audience taking delight in watching these so-called non-compliant women’s humiliation, the story is framed so that we want each and every one of them to fuck someone up. Set in a dystopian sci-fi future where society is (still) ruled by patriarchal values, women who stand up are hammered right back down—and sent to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, an off-world prison world known colloquially as Bitch Planet. The first issue follows two storylines: that of the women who have just arrived on Bitch Planet, and that of one woman’s husband, who’s doing all he can to manipulate his wife’s place in the prison system.
Have you ever seen a little girl run so fast she falls down? There’s an instant, a fraction of a second before the world catches hold of her again… A moment when she’s outrun every doubt and fear she’s ever had about herself and she flies. In that one moment, every little girl flies. I need to find that again. Like taking a car out into the desert to see how fast it can go, I need to find the edge of me… And maybe, if I fly far enough, I’ll be able to turn around and look at the world… And see where I belong.
—Captain Marvel #1 (2014).
Last year I was struck with tragedy: namely, the news that the ongoing Captain Marvel series that began in 2012 would end with issue #17. Cap’s enthusiastic fanbase, the Carol Corps, were heartbroken… until we found out that Carol would be coming back in a new series starting in 2014. As of now, three issues of that new series have come out, and I figured it was time to give them some love.
To quote the inimitable Kelly Sue DeConnick, “Captain Marvel can punch through a fucking planet. The challenge is to put her in situations she can’t solve by punching.” The last volume dealt with Carol facing as internal a threat as you can face: a tumor in her brain. While she did eventually overcome it, she had to sacrifice a lot of her memory to do so. She does remember people, but she has difficulty relating to them in the same way she once did. When that series ended, she had begun “tutoring” with her young fan Kit, who was teaching her how to be Carol again.
At the start of this series, Cap seems to be doing better, but she’s still feeling restless on Earth. So when Tony Stark, who recently spent some time in the far reaches of the galaxy himself, suggests that the Avengers should take turns doing a stint in space, even her burgeoning relationship with James “Rhodey” Rhodes doesn’t stop her from volunteering. Continue reading →
Recently a group of cinemas in Sweden decided to institute a ratings system based on the Bechdel test. As moviegoers enter one of these cinemas, they would see a rating by each advertised movie, telling them whether or not the movie had passed the test. Controversy ensued, with the Telegraph calling the test “damaging to the way we think about film” and the Guardian almost immediately rebutting by saying it was “a provocation that works”. Both sides of the argument have some merit to them, but it’s clear that the Bechdel test now has enough cultural clout to propel a more in-depth discussion on feminism and gender in the film industry. The test has long been held up as a measure of how feminist a movie is, but does it really fulfill this purpose? Or is it time for this test to make way for newer tests like Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Sexy Lamp test or the Mako Mori test?
Okay, moving on with my life and focusing on nicer, happier, excitingly feminist things happening in the Marvel comic book world, let’s talk about the new Captain Marvel.
So this lady with accidentally-got-them-from-an-alien-device superpowers named Carol Danvers apparently used to be Ms. Marvel for a super long time. But I’m not worried about that because I have never read a Ms. Marvel comic and know nothing about her and you don’t really need to either. What you do need to know is that she recently decided to promote herself to Captain and she is now in her own series, being billed as Earth’s Mightiest Hero. It is amazing.
So, weirdly enough, the first thing I read in Captain Marvel was… the first page of #1. And this one page actually made me stop and stare for like ten minutes, grinning like an idiot, and then go find my roommate and show her and babble a bit, and then stare a bit more before I managed to move on to page two. Okay, let’s compare Carol as Captain with Carol as Ms. Marvel. The image of Ms. Marvel is much more sexualized, with a more unrealistically proportioned body type, an outfit that isn’t exactly practical superhero wear, and her hair down. The image of Captain Marvel is just so much better to me in so many ways: her one-piece costume, despite still being skin-tight, seems so much more practical for crime-fighting than a bathing suit, opera gloves, and thigh-high boots (have you ever tried to wear them? They slide down the second you put them on!). Her hair is pulled back and up, also a more practical change. And the way she is drawn is less sultry and more confident and powerful. From the first page I was loving Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel.
And then I read the actual story, and I was hooked.