So the arguments suggesting that skimpy female warrior outfits make sense in the context of a character have been around almost as long as the outfits themselves… Not surprisingly, usually the reasoning behind the costume seems to get invented after the costume is already established.
Today I decided to take a look at one of characters famous for supposedly having a ‘reason’ to be half-naked on not one, but at least two levels – Starfire.
First let’s look at her costume out of context… The original one looks pretty awful, right? Impractically skimpy and, depending on the artist, the torso part ranges from somehow plausible (with a help of double-sided tape, at least), to outright damn impossible.
Still, reflective of what superheroes looked like back in the 80s. It’s not like her male colleagues didn’t have their share of silly-by-today’s-standards costumes.
Needless to say, a character that’s been around since 1980 had a few at least minor costume changes and redesigns throughout years, including the (much beloved) child-friendly version from the 2003 cartoon.
Then… the New 52 ’s turn came.
Uh… Ah… Um… Bingo?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite sure the old version would also score some major bingo points, but this is just beyond any possible level of defying physics and common sense. BABD has nothing but utter respect for the cosplayers that somehow make this costume actually work (especially the nipple-pieces).
Oh, and the way she was written upon her first appearance after the DC reboot (the infamous Red Hood & the Outlaws #1) does not help the case. AT ALL.
Which brings us to…
As mentioned earlier, Star supposedly has good reasons to dress the way she does. There may be more, but the two most frequently brought up are:
- Her alien powers are fueled by exposure to sunlight
- Big part of her character is having an agency over her sexuality
We poked the first one a few times already, so let’s get it out of the way quick: SAME FOR SUPERMAN. And if I’m not mistaken, unlike Supes, Starfire is not 100% invincible on top of her strength.
I challenge anyone to find us canon evidence that Kryptonians somehow don’t have to be half-naked to absorb sunlight through skin, but Tamaraneans do. Bonus points if you prove that it’s so totally not because the major character from Krypton is a man, while the major character from Tamaran is a woman.
The second one is a ride, as I have a very basic familiarity with the old Titans comics, let alone post-reboot ones, but fortunately I’m not the first person to talk about the subject of Kory’s depiction, so I had some broader frame of reference. I’ll link the sources in the last section of this post.
Let’s start with the basics: skimpy clothes and sexual liberation are not mutually inclusive. In case anyone forgot, it’s all an arbitrary standard that the Western culture made us assume to be “natural”.
Sadly, yes, I did feel the need to spell this out, as apparently some parties consider it a slight against all women’s sexuality if Star so much as covers her skin with
That said, even if we agree that the revealing costume is expression of Kory being in charge of how sexual she is, the post-reboot comics failed spectacularly at conveying it in a sensible way the old comics did.
The batshit redesign, the art that contorts her spine and shoves her boobs and butt in every scene possible, the writing that turned her basically into a living sex doll (an idea so bad that it got subsequently retconned); all of those things were carefully crafted NOT to put some interesting spin on the established character, but to suit the tastes of DC’s supposed target audience: unimaginative, perpetually horny straight boys.
There’s nothing wrong about Starfire being sexy and openly sexual.
But how does one turn a character like this:
Into someone who joylessly asks people she barely likes for a hookup out of boredom?:
And again, why would any of the above mean she, a superpowered alien warrior princess, should fight crime and villainy in “clothes” that are the superhero equivalent of Scarlet Blade armor? How is her sex life the “context” for her superhero looks?
With the old costume at least it can be argued she’s showing off her body, which she’s very comfortable with (canon in comics), with the new one… she only gets cold in her shoulders and feet? And alien fashion defies physics? IDK
Now, to clear you minds, I recommend you guys to check out theliberationofmanfire, a blog dedicated to showing us what Starfire and other comic superheroines would be like if they were redone as equally scantily-clad and sexualized male characters (and yes, that tumblr does precede thehawkeyeinitiative).
Further on the matter:
- Linkara’s (@atopfourthwall) video review of Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 – for those who don’t want to be directly subjected the awfulness of that comic (skip to 27th minute if you want to hear only the comments regarding the sexualization controversy)
- An example of how well-handled Kory’s sexual agency was in the old comics (Gohtam Central) – worth reading for luanna255’s and juvjuvychan’s commentary.
- The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their ‘Liberated Sexuality’ – Comics Alliance article that explores mishandling of female sexuality in recent superhero comics.
- YOU’LL COME WHEN YOU SEE THE MANGOS ON THIS RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS COVER – The Outhousers article that points out how 32 issues in, Red Hood and the Outlaws is still the kind of comic everyone should be ashamed of reading.
- Reactions Shortpacked! received for making the Starfire strip – apparently (according to enraged dudebros) “has sex with people” is everything about her personality.
- How the infamous Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 sex proposal scene SHOULD have been written – fanmade redo of the dialogue in that comic. Obviously done by people who know Kory’s character as more than just “has sex with people.”
- A response to the ‘Starfire’s covering skin-tight spacesuit is anti-feminist’ confession that comments on the false definition of “empowerment” of sexified female character by agentfiftyseven
- To Pants or Not to Pants – The Superhero Uniform and its Discontents – Dan Roth’s (pointlessarguments101) Chez Apocalypse article (that I quoted before) which examines how fully covering superheroine costumes are not yet a sign of sexism being over in comics
PS: Funny that Starfire’s official bio seems to not have been updated with anything since the start of New 52 in 2011.
Probably because of neglect, but I like to think that official Teen Titans site just prefers to ignore post-reboot Starfire’s design and personality.
edit: Updated link to Linkara’s review, due to Blip being dead and the last link, due to Chez Apocalypse site remaining in the limbo.