Starfire in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

With all the controversy and split between how to view Starfire (either a strong female or a bimbo mainly), I decided to ask one of my college professors for thoughts on Starfire’s portrayal.

Before I begin, I will not state my professor’s name due to privacy.  Their doctorate is in Education and does active research (and teaches about) multicultural education, (anti-)racism, social justice, and sexism to name a few.  The professor has even helped co-author and edit a few college level text books.  The basic view my professor had of Starfire is that she is by no means a strong woman but a negative portrayal.  So lets take another look at Starfire’s portrayal in the comic Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Her Appearance:  If you somehow have not seen the pictures of this new version of Starfire, take a look at the image above and below for when she’s not dressed in one of those two ways she’s naked (granted only for a moment).  Not once does she wear modest clothing.  There are two main thoughts I hear in regards to this that I’ll address.

  • She’s always open with her body:  Okay, this is technically a moot point as I think most their race barely wears more than what we’d consider underwear and her race overall isn’t that modest when it comes to their body.  But most readers – especially new ones – won’t know that and just see her as a female.  If she was a human character, then this would matter as a negative outlook.  She fights in something that no male would (unless forced to).  In fact if we did suddenly have a male character frequently in comics who only ran around in a banana hammock then majority of males would be disgusted by it.
  • She’s constantly posing/arching her back:  Even when she first appears (after destroying a bunch of tanks) she is posing like you’d expect a model to do, not someone who is in the middle of a battle.  Back is arched causing her chest to stick out one way and ass the other.  About half her appearances in fact she’s posing in some way that can be considered sexual.  See that last word in the previous sentence?  Yes, sexual.  Sexual is not an empowering trait for women.  Just imagine what people think when a woman poses sexually in public.  Negative terms come to mind like slut, skank, whore, etc.  I’d be shocked to hear people state something like “Well that’s a powerful woman!”  Same actually fits in regards to dress.

Her actions and words:

  • What she says:  After reading this my professor had said no where does anything Starfire says comes off as her being a strong or powerful woman; doesn’t talk with leadership or authority.  After she first appears she goes right to asking Jason what to do.  The only hint we get of her talking possibly with authority is when she’s trying to get sex, and where is the empowerment to women in that (I’ll get to that soon)?  Later on after being quizzed by Roy on Titan members she jumps right to asking him for sex.  Maybe in Tamaranean culture in this relaunch this is perfectly fine, but that mostly would be a cop out answer to this argument.  How does most cultures view women who constantly go for sex?  Like earlier, very negatively: slut, skank, whore, etc.  Again it would be very hard to find someone call a woman who sleeps around a lot as anything close to being strong.
  • Her actions:  So what does she do in this issue?  She destroys a bunch of tanks (off panel), poses a bunch (already addressed) and has sex with Roy (not to mention it is strongly suggested she is sleeping with Jason).  Okay, so this one is mainly looking at that sex part.  Sure sex is seen a lot of times as empowering for guys to do, but we should all know that is a double standard.  When a woman goes around sleeping with a lot of guys she is seen (again) as a skank, slut, whore, and other derogatory things and is once again not empowering to woman by any means.

This is a double standard!  For those who have defended Starfire’s portrayal in here, well that seems to be brought up.  Usually in regards to her sleeping around with various guys for when someone like James Bond did it in the old films, it was cool for Bond and made him looked up to by men all around the world.  But as my professor had basically stated: this does not matter.  That is for yes, it is a double standard but that doesn’t change the fact that such actions done by a woman comes off as negatively.  For things to be fair, all sexes (male, female, transgender) needs to be viewed equally by the same standard.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

Deconstructing Starfire – So I’m editing this in nearly a month after I wrote this, but just found this nicely written view of Starfire in issue 1 by Lunar Archivist.

More on DC’s new 52

read/RANT

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14 Responses to Starfire in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

  1. To be fair, I don’t think a guy sleeping around is any cooler than a girl sleeping around. I think both are sluts. I also don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with being a slut, but I agree that there’s a stigma associated with female sluts that isn’t there with male sluts (which might be wrong, but still exists).

  2. Dick Burns says:

    Nice opinion piece Read/Rant – and though some of your opinions are… errr… opinionated. I find that sometimes you have to look behind the motivations,

    When you have the time, check out what I think – http://www.comicbookandmoviereviews.com/2011/09/red-hood-and-outlaws-1.html

    • ikeebear says:

      Hi Dick,

      I checked out your blog. Good review (although I have to say that I find white writing on black background to be any absolute beating of my eyeballs).

      I also hope this book can recover from its flaws, because it definitely has potential.

  3. Amanda says:

    You’ve got some good points. Ultimately, the book was written poorly. Lobdell is far more interested in telling about his characters than showing. Historically, Kori’s character was supposed to be very…free, but not a slut. Unfortunately, the writer has misinterpreted that and hamfistedly used giant text blocks of narration, mostly by characters other than Starfire, to give excuses for why she’s willing to drop into bed with anything with a pulse that smells good. It’s weak, weak writing, coupled with a lot of cheesecake art. That’s a formula for the degradation of what could be a very powerful, unique female character.

  4. xxadverbxx says:

    Thanks to those who responded. Pi, I basically have the same opinion but I admit I still have a bit of a double standard myself where a guy needs to whore himself out a bit more for me to really look down on it :(

    Dick Burns, I apologize for my lack of bettering the points. Outside of some rather general sexual harassment trainings done at past employers and school, well the class I’m currently taking on racism and sexism isn’t on the sexism part of the course. Also, when I spoke to my teacher on this, well sadly I failed to take many notes and my teacher didn’t have much time so quickly ran over the points with me on why they thought Starfire was no means portraying a strong woman. Each point I hit we went over, but that was most of what I got into my head/notebook from the quick talk with the teacher.

  5. anon says:

    yeah i don’t find starfire’s potrayl sexist, but i wonder if that’s really blackfire, not starfire, since if i remeber right, blackfire was more pormiscuous and she looked a lot like starfire

  6. Thanks for the link to my article! I enjoyed yours as well.

    If your college professor has Internet access, I think it would be interesting if she’d consider participating in a relevant debate about this. Just e-mail me or leave another comment on my article if you’re up to it. :)

    • xxadverbxx says:

      Well you had a nicely written out article. As for the professor, don’t know if they would do it or not. Mostly it sounds that my prof’s schedule is extremely filled between papers, dealing with students on final projects, travel around the US on weekends even to be a speaker at various places.

      If wanted, I could still ask but the professor I don’t think would have the time even if the want was there. By chance, who would the debate be with even? For that could possibly influence the decision too.

      • Gail Simone is attempting to get Scott Lobdell himself to make an appearance on her board to discuss the Starfire issue.

        To be honest, all the bloggers who’ve been discussing the matter (with the exception of yourself, of course) thus far have been “armchair academics”. I figured having a bonafide professor with gender studies experience under her belt enter the discussion might prove interesting.

  7. Will says:

    I’m a guy, but I consider myself a feminist. I’m gay, and because of that I tend to get a lot of the same negative stereotypes that women get. I’m assumed weaker unless I go out of my way to appear strong, and if I sleep around, it’s seen as me being a slut, not being a hero.

    All that exposition in place, I agree that this is bad writing and really ruining a great character. I was introduced to Starfire back in the Teen Titans TV show and watched every episode. With this series and Starfire unable to remember anything, she’s in this permanent date rape scenario, able to provide sex on tap and you’d never need to have strings attached. It’s offensive, I will not be reading this comic or anything else by this author, including Teen Titans.

    And yes I do read a massive ton of comics. Secret Six, Birds of Prey, Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman series, iZombie, Chris Claremont’s original run on X-Men and I’m getting into Batwoman. I’m looking forward to checking out Action Comics but I really enjoyed Superman: Birthright and I don’t think it can top it. Other than that, I’m skipping the New 52 for as long as possible.

    And I’ve been reading the one sentence reviews religiously, please keep them coming. I check for new ones every day. Would love to hear your thoughts on other WTF relaunch characters, like Batgirl, Bunker, Catwoman and poor Amanda Waller.

    • xxadverbxx says:

      Wow, not reading any of Lobdell’s stuff just for one book? Interesting. Personally, I seem to keep reading his stuff. Superboy I really enjoy and think it’s one of the better new 52 books. TT I keep reading hoping it will improve, and for I want to see what happens at least once Superboy and Kid Flash all meet up – though how Bunker will be portrayed kind of scares me. Red Hood I’ve kept reading hoping for better light on Star, and so far I think she’s only barely improved since the first issue.

      Either way, I first met Starfire in the animated series too, and later Vol. 3 of the Teen Titans. Seeing her how Lobdell so far has written her has been upsetting for various reasons. Same actually goes for Cassie but on a lesser level, and am worried he’s going to have Bunker as just a stereotypical gay male.

      A lot of the new 52 has upset me from some certain comics, to a lot of it being DC isn’t all on the same page in terms of what is and is not still cannon. So far there are 8 series (and maybe a couple more) that I actually plan on continuing to follow.

      Either way, glad you’ve been enjoying read/RANT. In terms of the One Sentence reviews, ikeebear writes that up (there are a few different writers on this blog right now) and I think he tends to get them up Sunday or Monday generally.

  8. goutam datta says:

    Having read all that you’ve all commented upon of late regarding the harshness of Starfire’s depiction in the new DC verse, am i not right in fervently hoping that another reboot of the aforesaid comics world is forthcoming.

    Knowing her character history ever since Marv Wolfman first introduced her as much as i did, i believe Starfire doesn’t deserve this much a degradation in character from Lobdell. Here’s hoping his time authoring her is short.

  9. [...] ’90s run easily outclassed the rest of the X-Pack, featuring such “luminaries” as Scott Lobdell on Uncanny X-Men, and Rob Liefeld on X-Force. Discounting issue 70, the run is collected in [...]

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