Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 has fan boys in a frenzy. This isn’t surprising. Any book that stars the Red Hood is bound to be a target. Adding DC whipping boy Roy Harper is just chumming the water. But what has a lot of fans foaming at the mouth is Scott Lobdell’s treatment of former Teen Titan, Starfire.
Starfire has always been something of an exhibitionist. I have a hard time remembering a series that featured the character in which she didn’t eventually disrobe. This issue features Starfire in a bikini which is only slightly more revealing than her super hero costume.
This is really nothing new for super hero comics in general or Starfire in particular. However, the book has stirred up controversy by showing Starfire proposition Roy Harper for sex. She does so after it is made clear she is already having casual sex with Jason Todd. This, in some people’s eyes, qualifies her as a bimbo. Some have even called her a slut.
I disagree with this point of view. For one thing, I think the labels are ugly. Starfire is portrayed as indulging in casual sex. But so are Jason and Roy. And I haven’t seen anyone refer to either of them as “bimbos” or “sluts”. It’s a double standard.
There’s a myth in American culture that women don’t like sex. Or that if they do, they shouldn’t like it as much as men. Men are allowed – even encouraged – to treat sex casually. It makes them a rogue like Han Solo or James Bond. But when a woman engages in the same behavior, they suddenly get labeled as a “bimbo” or a “slut”.
Is Starfire being objectified? Yeah. I think it’s fairly obvious from the pictures that we’re supposed to derive some titillation from the images of an impossibly proportioned alien princess with a liberal libido. But I also think there’s something refreshing about this presentation.
Starfire isn’t a bimbo or a slut. She’s a powerful woman. More powerful than Jason or Roy and they know it. She’s calling the shots here. She’s hanging out with these guys because they entertain her. She’s having sex with them because it brings her pleasure. When she loses interest, she’ll take off and never look back. Everything is on her terms. And that smells like a liberated woman to me.
Also, remember we’re dealing with an alien here. Lobdell makes it very obvious that Starfire doesn’t have the typical human hang-ups. She sees humans as little more than “sights and smells”. We’re barely worth her attention. She is so in-the-moment, that she doesn’t seem to remember her time with the Teen Titans.
I think this is what is causing people to label her a “bimbo”. They see her as an air head. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. Remember, she’s an alien. She doesn’t see humans as deserving her full attention. We’re just not worth remembering. She’s a super hot princess who lives in the now. She’s got better things to do than revel in the faded glory of the Teen Titans.
I actually think what Lobdell has done here is kind of brilliant. As a writer, he didn’t want to deal with all the baggage and continuity that the Wolfman/Perez era Titans (and all the subsequent incarnations) bring. But he knew fan boys would be up in arms if he removed those stories from continuity. So instead, he acknowledges that they happened. But he establishes up front that Starfire has moved on and so should you. We’re not going to be dealing with that stuff here.
Is it a departure from previous versions of the character? Yes. But it’s not all that drastic a departure from the Starfire I read about in the pages of 52. And given that this book is part of a line-wide relaunch, Lobdell has a licence to reinvent the character in a way that suits his needs. I’m just impressed that he was able to do so in a way that still allowed Titan fans to hold on to their favorite old Starfire stories.
I know there’s very little chance to change the mind of an angry fan. But I would encourage anyone who had a negative reaction to Lobdell’s portrayal of Starfire to go back and reevaluate their stance.
Are you holding Roy and Jason to the same standards? Does it make sense to hold an alien to the same standards you would a human? What’s your hang-up, man?