by Drew Baumgartner
This article will contain SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
It is more important that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world, that all of them cannot be punished…. when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, ‘it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security.’ And if such a sentiment as this were to take hold in the mind of the subject that would be the end of all security whatsoever.
There are always folks who will defend punishment for the guilty — whether it’s prison, public shaming, or being shot by a cop — but that often necessitates retroactively framing those who receive punishment as guilty. In the wakes of countless police (and neighborhood watchmen) shootings, the offenses that have been deemed worthy of death have ranged from stealing a pack of cigarettes to wearing a goddamned hoodie. It’s an absolutely despicable line of reasoning (even when it’s “I agree they didn’t deserve to die, but…”), but it falls completely on its face in the case of Philando Castile, who was inarguably guilty of no crime whatsoever. This is exactly the situation Adams was warning against. There is no virtue in innocence or — in the parlance of Bitch Planet — compliance, so why follow the rules at all?
I’m wary of hanging a theme on an anthology — this issue features three stories by three creative teams — but Bitch Planet: Triple Feature 1 hangs together quite beautifully around this notion that compliance offers no actual security. It’s a theme we’ve seen played out in the flashbacks of the main series, but these stories, as with the case of Philando Castile, feature women who aren’t “guilty” of anything anyone can argue as deserving of punishment. They’re punished anyway, so why be compliant?
Each story in the issue hits this note from a different angle (though they all nail the depressingly familiar casual sexism that defines this series’ dialogue), but the clearest articulation is in the closing story, from Conley Lyons, Craig Yeung, and Marco D’Alfonso. Their protagonist, Leslie, wants nothing more than to be a respected businesswoman. But, you know, respect isn’t something that’s afforded to women (even as a pretense) in Bitch Planet.
If compliance can’t get her seen, what other option does she have?