The Big Sexy Problem With Starfire
This week, RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #1 introduced readers to a rebooted version of Starfire – and many longtime Titans fans were dismayed at what they found.
In the issue, Jason Todd and Roy Harper get a lot of the attention, establishing a bit of of an action-buddy-movie vibe. Starfire’s along for the ride, but she’s mostly taking orders from Jason. Look, I don’t mind Starfire being sexually liberated and even asking Roy to sleep with her. The Tamaraneans were always established as passionate people, and it’s almost ridiculous that Starfire’s ONLY comic book relationship is Dick Grayson. I’d imagine she’d be enjoying sexual relations with a number of men.
But I think this Kory (or Kori, as they now call her) is not represented well here. The short-term memory thing combined with her desire to have sex with any man in her orbit… she comes off like a space bimbo, rather than a passionate warrior.
Writers make two mistakes with Starfire:
1. They define her by her relationship with Dick Grayson
2. They still make her ridiculously naive and unaculturated to Earth
Here’s the key word to describe Starfire: “passionate.”
Everything she does and feels is dialed up to 11. She loves as fiercely as she fights. Her passion makes her impulsive (but not stupid!). She’s got a huge heart. And she’s one of the first to stand up for the downtrodden and indefensible. And it’s not that she doesn’t understand earth culture – it just doesn’t make sense to her. Our laws and hang-ups are convoluted to her. She sees things as pretty black and white. THAT’s Starfire.
She SHOULD be a main DC female character, in the same way Storm has become an A-list Marvel character. She’s got recognizability with the cartoon, and she’s been a “fan favorite” for years. She’s also visually striking, with very visual powers. It’s easy to distill who she is, and her personality really stands out.
This issue, as well as CATWOMAN #1, propelled Comic Alliance’s Laura Hudson to write a spectacular article about “The Big Sexy Problem With Super-heroines And Their Liberated Sexuality.” All comic fans should read it!
Here’s a sample: “Incidentally, while Starfire here seems to want casual sex with people whose names she can’t remember that she says must be divorced from emotion, that’s very much a departure from her previous incarnation, were she came from a culture that was primarily about love, not being available for joyless hookups with random dudes:”
Laura continues: “But the problem isn’t Star Sapphire. Or Catwoman. Or Starfire. Or Dr. Light raping Sue Dibny on the Justice League satellite or that stupid rape backstory Kevin Smith gave Black Cat or the time Green Lantern’s girlfriend got murdered and stuffed in a refrigerator. The problem is all of it together, and how it becomes so pervasive both narratively and visually that each of these things stops existing as an individual instance to be analyzed in a vacuum and becomes a pattern of behavior whose net effect is totally repellent to me. As an anomaly, maybe Starfire could be funny, the way the big-breasted, over-sexed Fritz (who even got her own porno comic, Birdland, which is pretty good if you’re into that) is often funny in Love and Rockets, mostly because the series is already packed full of incredibly diverse, fully-realized female characters. But as the 5,000th example of a superhero comic presenting female sexuality in tone-deaf ways, it’s just depressing.”
Previously, Scott Lobdell described Starfire in an with CBR: “Similarly, there is a reason why Kory wakes up and goes to bed with a smile on her face, and it isn’t because she’s a bimbo. It is because she has survived the worst that the universe could throw at her, and she is acutely aware of that. She doesn’t just love Earth, she loves life and she loves freedom in a way that those of us who’ve never had it taken away could never hope to understand.”
That sounds more in line with the Starfire we know and love. Let’s hope we see more of her in future issues!
End of titanstower.com transmission. About this author:
Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind titanstower.com. He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author