A while back, Red Hood and the Outlaws, a title in DC’s New 52, became the source of much outrage, and we here at LGG&F weren’t the biggest fans of it either, if only because of the character Starfire and her blatantly misogynistic portrayal.
Starfire was never really that big of a character in the DC Universe before, except for in Teen Titans, but her portrayal in the reboot has upset a lot of people nonetheless. The New 52 initially seemed to have revamped her character from a sexually liberated, loving superhero, who fought with righteous anger and the power of her emotions, into a vapid sex doll who suffered a severe case of amnesia—to the extent that she couldn’t remember who Dick Grayson, the love of her life, was. She was no longer sexually liberated or her own person. She was nothing more than a woman who stood around posing sexily in spine-breaking positions for heterosexual men.
Her portrayal in the first issue was so sexist and misogynistic that it turned me off the entire series, and I had no desire to continue it. That was, until very recently, when I saw this picture:
Like, wow, she has clothes on. That’s a little odd for her, as she’s one of the few female characters whose personality actually does allow for the more-revealing outfits. But more importantly, she’s actually doing something. And she looks awesome. As such, I decided to give the series another try, went out to my local comic shop, bought Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 2: The Starfire (Red Hood and the Outlaws #8–14), and read it all in one sitting.
I was blown away, and I think I may have fallen in love with Starfire’s character. Spoilers after the jump.
Just to be clear, when it comes to Red Hood and the Outlaws, I have only read issues #1 and #8–14. I cannot comment on what happens between or after them. All I know is that The Starfire completely changed my perception of the series. Also, when I say that The Starfire is an improvement, I’m not saying that the series still isn’t sexist. Nor am I excusing Starfire’s treatment in the first issue. The first issue is inexcusable, no matter how you look at it. Additionally, since I don’t follow the writers, comic artists, or the studio itself, I cannot be sure if the improvements made to Starfire’s character were always planned or were brought about due to all the criticism. However, I don’t really think it matters. Either way, The Starfire presents her as a real person with her own motivations, desires, and internal conflicts, and that in turn made me enjoy everything else going on a lot more.
In The Starfire, Starfire, and her fellow outlaws, Jason and Roy, travel to Starfire’s home planet Tamaran, because her people have been conquered by an invading force called the Blight. Starfire, as the second princess of Tamaran, rises to the challenge of saving her people. What I like is that there is a lot more to it than it just being her duty.
We discover that Starfire had been sold into slavery by her own sister, Komand’r, as a peace trade to end a war. While enslaved, Starfire suffered horribly, and after escaping she found that she just couldn’t stay with her own people. Even though she was finally home again, she felt isolated due to the betrayal, and that’s why she traveled all the way to Earth. Starfire is a person who likes to form emotional connections with people; she’s very into hugging and love, which is something that she has managed to retain, despite this trauma in her life. However, this also goes to show her conflicting emotions and why she can also appear so cold and detached. Eventually, she confesses what’s she’s feeling to both Roy and Jason.
…Because the truth is, there are over a billion people on Tamaran—and not one of them lifted a finger to save me.
I am not ashamed to say… I don’t want to help them. A part of me does not care if the Blight takes the entire planet and reduces it to a living tumor. I need you to tell me if I am wrong.
Yeah, I think she makes a very good point here. I would feel exactly the same way if I were her. That kind of betrayal doesn’t just go away. Though in the original universe, her past is very similar to this, I think the New 52 did a really good job here by showing how emotionally damaging such an experience can be, and how that in turn can make a person feel cold.
When she confesses this to the other outlaws, both Jason and Roy try to comfort her, but it is Roy who succeeds in convincing her that she’ll do the right thing. This was honestly surprising to me, because at this point in time, she and Roy are in a committed relationship, which is not something I thought Starfire would be interested in from the first issue. In the first issue, she just wanted to have sex with him without any emotional strings attached, but now the two of them call it making love. She has formed a relationship with both of them—romantic in the case of Roy—and learned to trust people again. It was so sweet that I almost forgive the series for making her forget who Dick Grayson is. I think what Roy says to Starfire also went to show how well connected they have become.
Kori, I don’t know the person you were before we met. But I know the person you were always supposed to be. I catch glimpses of it in your smile when you think no one is looking. I hear it in your laugh when I say something stupid.
Heck, I even see it when you kill someone else before they have a chance to kill us. You are a good person, Kori—If you are going to help your people it is because you’re going to do it from a place of strength—not because of anything they did or didn’t do.
As can be expected, they save the day and Tamaran is freed. Starfire and her sister make up, she forgives her people, and learns to love again. At the end of this arc, she still leaves Tamaran, because Earth is her home now. All in all, everything that happens almost makes me feel as if we judged the series much too soon, if only because The Starfire was so well written and engaging.
However, as I said, Red Hood and the Outlaws still has a lot of problems, both in female representation and other issues. When The Starfire opens, the characters, specifically Jason, fat-shame a female villain. This doesn’t bother me that much, as our three characters are all murderous outlaws. I don’t expect them to be completely PC. I do, however, expect the writers and artists to handle the situation better than it was.
Furthermore, Jason gets a girlfriend named Isabel, whose entire purpose in this volume is to get shoved into a refrigerator for the purpose of furthering Jason’s storyline. Also, this is the cover of The Starfire:
Isabel is the girl in white. Lady Geek Girl already discussed a while back why this kind of picture is sexist when she talked about movie posters.
If you were like me and were put off the series because of Starfire’s portrayal in the first issue alone, you might want to give The Starfire a shot. As I said, I cannot comment on what happens between the first issue and The Starfire, or on what happens afterward, but this volume was a pretty good read.