September 28, 2011

Guest Post: In Defense of Starfire

I know, guest posts aren't the norm around here. I don't seek them out, but sometimes they just fall in your lap. On Twitter, I noticed an acquaintance say she was tempted to start a blog just to state her feelings about Starfire. I offered her a space here to express her feelings. I don't claim to agree or disagree, but it's nice to see another side presented. So without further adieu, here are Kimi's feelings about the recent Starfire controversy:

In Defense of Starfire

There are a lot of male letches, jerks, and crazies in the comic book world, even among its heroes. Guy Gardner is the classic example, but there are many men in the comic universe who aren’t shy about their sexual exploits. Starfire has always been a very sexual character and it has always been clear that people on her home planet are not monogamous. Why are we upset that a woman treats sex as casually as other male characters? This comic is clearly not meant for children, so we do not have the issue of her being a bad role model. Do we expect all of heroines in comics to be perfect, beautiful, monogamous examples of women? In the end, are we asking them to make their morals and personalities as flawless as the scantly clad bodies that we point out are unrealistic?

Which brings me to….

To me, the new Starfire is flawed. She is incredibly shallow, but I know people like that. It’s sad, but true. We can all name at least one woman that we know who fits the description of “slut”, so why is it so hard for us to swallow that concept in a comic? It is a realistic flaw that really occurs in society, sometimes due to emotional problems. People have pointed out that Starfire’s behavior is similar to a rape victim or someone who has been through some other trauma. Well, Starfire was enslaved by her older sister and sexually exploited. Maybe she should have been acting this way the whole time. Maybe this is more realistic, albeit unpleasant.

And to clarify, the names she lists off in the infamous beach scene are not all her ex-lovers; they are members of her old superhero team… who she doesn’t remember because of her alien memory. I guess it’s better than a retcon? At least they didn’t un-marry her like poor Superman and Lois Lane.

Which leads into…

Be a Good Geek not just a Geek Girl
If you are going to be mad that they changed Starfire as a character, more power to you, but don’t be mad about it just because of her gender. Gender bias is what we are fighting against! If the entire female comic community gets upset every time they change a female character, we are doomed. It won’t take long before comic companies start avoiding the bad press by never taking chances with female characters, or worse, keeping the number of female characters as low as possible.

If you really want to help, be a POSITIVE customer. Vote with good press about the books you like, bugging them for new female characters to support, and by BUYING the comics you like. Once you write off a comic company, they do the same to you.

Also, support female comic writers and artists! BUY THEIR BOOKS! Contact the big companies and say that you’d love to buy comics drawn by so-and-so. Getting more women into making comics will help the quality of the female characters in the comics. When it comes right down to it, the almighty dollar is king in the DC universe. Spending money will always be heard over the din of the Internet.

And because I’m a major geek…

For the Kids
Please, enough with comparing the cartoon Starfire to the one in Red Hood. Please? The Teen Titans cartoon is not a good basis of knowledge for Starfire. It was a character more inspired by the comic Starfire, than an actual accurate portrayal. Yes, people who watched the TV show might be upset if they read Red Hood. They may also be upset when they read older comics and learn that Kory was enslaved, sexually exploited, had her family destroyed, practiced free love on her planet, and that she got her starbolts as the result of being a guinea pig in forced alien experimentation… and her new comic outfit is just as skimpy as her old outfit!

You can follow Kimi on Twitter - (@LadyAdeena)


  1. If the entire female comic community gets upset every time they change a female character, we are doomed. It won’t take long before comic companies start avoiding the bad press by never taking chances with female characters, or worse, keeping the number of female characters as low as possible.

    While recognizing my own male privilege, I have to disagree here - if DC continues to engage in bad business practices because of consumer complaint, it's not the fault of the consumers. Your phrasing almost makes this sound like a deterrent.

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  2. Arturo - what is bad business practices? We are talking about a comic that a few people are irritated at. They aren't clubbing baby seals. Kimi is simply stating support works you like, and just don't read the ones you don't. Money is what is going to decide what comics continue to pump out. Business has a funny way of working like that. But I agree with her point, if everyone gets up in arms about every change they do, comics might just stop updating that comic line (male or female).

  3. I have to agree with Arturo in that it's the squeaky wheel that gets the oil, and the complaints have to continue and not be some temporary thing if DC is going to listen. And the voice has to grow.

    It's definitely silly to say that Starfire can't be this character because she's a girl. The main complaint as I see it is it's because this character treatment is rather blatantly FOR the male audience, and here we go again!

    I think people, and I guess mostly women in this case are sick and tired of seeing positive role women role models in comics being reduced to the opposite, when there are so few examples to begin with. So few readily available, immediately recallable redeeming positive role models. Same issue with the reboot of Amanda Palmer, head of the Suicide Squad and a prominent, loved positive character who was not only a woman in a position of authority, but a plus-sized woman in a position of authority... and they gave her the super model/porn star reboot as well.

    It comes down to what I hear most often: "No, women characters are not immune to this kind of treatment. But it's very discouraging that this remains the primary trend, because we want more positive women characters and they're not only refusing to give us more, but they're dismantling ones we already had."

    And what makes this TRULY a problem is that DC keeps going on record as having the intent to serve the audience that craves these ladyheroes, the intent to listen to the complaints about oversaturation of sexuality and everything... and not living up to their word. It's the hypocrisy that makes this sting, because it's now a little bit past business as usual.

    At least before, they weren't pretending they cared about any demograph besides the 18-35 male. They say they're trying to serve the other gender's demo, and they're falling flat. And for some reason, people seem to really want to quell any dissent.

  4. Arturo - what is bad business practices? We are talking about a comic that a few people are irritated at.

    Actually, we're talking about more than that, as Laura Hudson, among others, has pointed out:

    "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."

    Also, you seem to contradict yourself: you say "don't buy it if you don't like it," and then say things might change if "everyone gets up in arms about it." Are you pro-business or pro-consumer, sir?

  5. I'm actually both. Consumers have nothing without business and vice versa. If you run a business you are there to make money, or at least you should be. So I guess I'm pro-business. However that means you need to listen to your customer base. At the same time however, if that voice is loud and obnoxious, you might just focus on a new customer base. That is the root of what Kimi is talking about. If people continue to complain over every change they make to a female back story, but don't give a crap about the changes made to male backstories, it's a simple business move to cut out the lead female stories. That is the point Kimi was getting at that I back up. At the same time, I do think people have a right to complain, and they should, I'm simply saying the best way to enforce change to a large business is with your pocket book. If everyone hates the new Starfire, and they stop buying it, DC will refactor it or drop it, resolving the complaint people have with it. If people overly complain about it on the internet, and everyone rushes to buy the new "jerry springer/reality TV/latest buzz" crapware comic, then DC will keep publishing a "jerry springer/reality TV/latest buzz" crapware comic because like it or not, it makes money. So speak your mind, just do it where it counts. Just my 2 cents.

  6. If everyone hates the new Starfire, and they stop buying it,

    So now we're playing all-or-nothing? Who is this mythical "everybody" you're talking about? And what's more obnoxious, concerns raised by both journalists and published authors, or tone-deaf boilerplate press releases?

  7. I know what side I stand on.

  8. I have to disagree here a bit. There is a way to write and illustrate a character who is 'flawed', and there is a way to write the character as a slut. Not all female superheores have to be saints, and I've seen many times characters who aren't.

    The problem comes when the character is written in a way that our impression as readers is 'damn, Starfire's a ho!' If the writers wanted her to be 'flawed', there are other ways to write her as flawed. If they didn't want her sexuality, and quite frankly, her slutty behavior, to be so emphasized, they wouldn't have written or depicted her that way.

    It's the impression that you put upon your readers. If that's not the impression you want to give, then damnit, you're a writer, write her differently. Don't present an orange, then complain when everyone says 'that's an orange', and it's really an apple

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