Hellfire and Sweater Meat: In Defense of DC's Starfire Reboot
The reboot of the DC universe has had its share of controversies, such as the paraplegic Barbara Gordon regaining the ability to walk and resuming the mantle of Batgirl. Nothing seems to have gotten folks more up in arms, though, than the way former Teen Titan member Starfire has been portrayed in the pages of Red Hood and the Outlaws.
Those who know her only from the Teen Titans animated series will remember a fully dressed, plucky little thing that was trying hard to fit in on Earth. In the new comic she's almost always near naked, brutal and emotionally distant despite being rather deeply attached to Jason Todd and Roy Harper. The debut of Red Hood drew ire for her costume, the casual way she has no-strings-attached sex with Roy after having previously slept with Jason, and for apparently being some kind of indicator of the juvenile male fantasy stereotype that dominates people's views of comic fans.
Look, there's nothing we can say about her costume. It's more ridiculous than Emma Frost's, and that's saying something. However, we'd like to take this opportunity to answer in the character's defense to some of her detractors.
"She alone seems to have been completely rebooted for the relaunch. Lobdell's decision to write her as being more cold and hostile is fine, but he does over-emphasize her sexuality a bit. Yes, Starfire is meant to be a sexually liberated character, but in a more positive way than shown here."- Jesse Schedeen, IGN.com
In all the condemnations of Starfire, please give the critics some slack as most of them seem to have commented on the first issue only, which is understandable. Schedeen is correct that when it comes to Jason Todd and Roy Harper, little has been done to differentiate them from their previous incarnations, save switching Harper from a recovering heroin addict to a recovering alcoholic. Starfire alone has been significantly redone.
And yet, we feel that he makes far too light of her sexuality. Aliens not understanding nudity taboos is at least as old as Heinlein's Stranger and a Strange Land, and was explored perfectly by Alan Moore with Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen. So there is a precedent, but we feel it is Starfire's casual offer of sex ("Love has nothing to do with it.") to Harper that sets people off.
This is generally portrayed as turning her into some kind of ready-made nymphomaniac, but it's deeper than that. To the Tamaraneans, humans are little more than passing sights and smells, but for Starfire Todd and Harper somehow stand out and matter to her. We've yet to see her just boning random dudes off the street, or even sleeping with either of her teammates again. She's not a sex toy, she's someone from a very different culture attracted to two specific men.