Banner Art by Amanda Conner

Fellow youths, forget the fond memories you have of the Teen Titans cartoon, if only for a moment. The current iteration of Koriand’r is not the beloved and quirky character which we saw in that excellent piece of animation. The Starfire in comics now is something far, far uglier.

Also, heads up, we are moving into the realm of characters that I do actually hate, so get ready for a bit more bile in the final four. Also, we are going to be talking about sex and sexuality a bit in this entry. So, be prepared for a little, PG-13 talk I guess.

Oh, dear lord, what do I say about this disquieting abomination which wears the skin of Starfire? Actually, it’s pretty straightforward. She’s a sex doll in a comic book.

Like, for real. More than my usual banging on about the fact that Wonder Woman doesn’t have pants and that they felt the need to go back to the boob-window costume for Power Girl, Starfire is actually now designed to be everything a shallow, sex-obsessed, heterosexual male would want in a girl. Her costume is barely a costume, being on par with pre-Flashpoint Star Sapphire as well as characters like Witchblade and Vampirella (I do know non-DC and non-Marvel characters, thank you very much).

In Red Hood and the Outlaws, she casually sleeps with Red Hood and Arsenal, claiming it is completely disassociated with any romantic ideas. She also quickly forgets people, meaning she will never hold you to any personal obligation for said sexing. In Starfire, she was made into a complete airhead who often walks around naked because she doesn’t “understand human customs.”

Now, before you call me some sort of puritanical dinosaur, I get the idea that this could be conceived as a sexually liberated character who doesn’t exclusively associate sex with romance and love. If you see her as such, that’s fine. It would be cool to have a character like that in comics beyond just Catwoman. However, where I do read Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and even Black Cat (sometimes) as sexually liberated characters, I just can’t get that from Starfire, and I’ll tell you why.

Context. Context is everything when reading the meaning behind characters. While I do have a fondness for the juvenile stupid of the early Red Hood and the Outlaws comics, I would be remiss to not say that it is a very dudebro-y comic book. Starfire seems to be there to give the dudebros who read that comic a sexy puppet who will boink your brains out and not hold you to it. Hell, she may even forget you exist because she’s an alien and that crap makes sense for some reason. All the better.

She’s not there to let women know that it’s okay for them to be sexually active. That would be a positive message to send with a comic. No, she’s there to give the dudes something to stare at and have sex dreams about.

Plus, the fact that it’s justified through her being an alien shows that it’s not there to send a positive message about sexuality. No, it’s “look at this exotic chick who has these strange ways and she wants to screw you hard.” And when has that ever been a thing with any other alien character. When’s the last time Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Star-Lord, Kilowog, Gladiator, Ronan, or Drax has walked around with their frigging shlongs out?

That being said, at least Starfire has some agency in her sex-puppitness in Red Hood and the Outlaws. I read one issue of Starfire, and what I saw was beyond uncomfortable. Here, she is a complete airhead who walks around topless for a good portion of the issue. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, and we’re supposed to think that makes it alright I guess? Except it doesn’t. Here is a character who is usually at least competent being made to be “adorably dumb” to justify her showing off her frigging tits just so the guys in the audience can get their rocks off a bit.

Yes, I know Amanda Conner was involved with that series. No, that does not somehow justify this since she is a woman. Firstly, many hands stir the pot in mainstream comics. Secondly, maybe she had some intent with the character that just didn’t come through on the page. I’m not going to assume malice on the part of the creators. I’m here to criticize the art, not the artist.

Starfire, as she is now, is just an insulting character. It’s insulting towards heterosexual men because it assumes that T&A will automatically sell them on a comic. It’s insulting to everyone outside of that strata of reader because its nakedly pandering to that one demographic, thus alienating them. Get it together DC.

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2 thoughts on “#4 Worst Comic Book Character: Starfire of the New 52

  1. Knowing that comics are typically marketed to males (“GIRLS can’t read comics! They’re for boys!”), this character seems completely ridiculous. I already hate the trope of the sexy heroin (because women are only good for looking good, right?) and the idea that female characters HAVE to wear skimpy outfits (why give them REAL protective armor or functional outfits?), but the fact that she’s so promiscuous just adds another level of “ugh” for me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for women embracing their sexuality and being free to make those kinds of choices, but I feel like this is a totally different level. Like you said, it’s not sending a positive message to female readers; it’s just making her an extremely sexual character who acts as if she doesn’t understand what she’s even doing, almost like it’s just instinctual (implied animalism?). Really, I think the fact that the reasoning for her behavior is that she’s “alien” and doesn’t understand “human customs” only serves to alienate her and fetishize her. It really reminds me of the way that American men fetishize Asian women and act as if their ethnicity is reason enough to treat them as sex toys. It’s as if being alien (read: “Other”) makes it okay for Koriand’r to be overly sexualized, and it’s okay for her to act as though she isn’t human (even though she isn’t, but she also isn’t some wild animal).

    TL;DR: Alien = fetish = inhuman/animal = “other” = no value

    Overall, I really agree with everything you’ve said here. If you aren’t familiar with the term “orientalism” as it relates to the representation of Asia from a colonialist perspective, I highly recommend that you look into it. While it won’t always be relevant (it really isn’t relevant here, but the idea behind it works all the same), I always find it to be a good starting point to discuss objectification, over-sexualization, and general “othering.”

    Like

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