In Defense of Starfire

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Posted by GraveSp (335 posts) - - Show Bio
Just in case you didn't believe me
Just in case you didn't believe me

Sitting down to actually write this I find that the title I picked is not entirely appropriate. I am not actually really defending Starfire I am defending an interpretation of her in a book which I throughly enjoyed. Looking back I find that there is 2 major complaints about her character in Red Hood and the Outlaws. One is that she is overtly sexual, Two is the fact that she is written to be unable to tell the difference between people and she easily forgets them when they are not around. The first claim that she is overly sexual in this book compared to others I find ridiculous, especially since you can look at her comicvine page and midway down you will see a picture of her naked which appeared in a pre-Relaunch DC book. The second complaint I find a little more interesting because it actually relates to one of the focus areas in the Psychology Degree I earned and the area I will be pursuing in a Post-Graduate Ph.D. program. In my opinion the fact that she is unable to tell the difference between people makes her a better character, this comes from my interest in Social Psychology specifically Stereotyping which I draw my opinions from.

I'm sure everyone has heard at one time or another someone say that members of an outgroup look alike. It seems like a vaguely racist idea that does hold some truth. We see members of outgroups as being more homogeneous, they not only look alike but act and think alike. Let me stop here to explain this idea. ONE this is a result of natural processes where the human brain groups similar stimuli together for efficiency and in order for it to stay efficient it needs to be somewhat simplistic. TWO just because it is natural does not mean it is right, as one of my professors was very found of saying cancer is natural doesn't mean that people have to like it or accept it. THREE this diminishes with enough exposure that you begin to reclassify the group breaking it up into smaller and smaller groups needless to say it takes a long time. FOUR this isn't just about race, people tend to see most groups that aren't them as one dimensional groups that all think the same be it a different race, political party, social cliche, or any other group.

There are a couple reasons people tend to think outgroups looks similar, especially if they did not grow up around members of the outgroup. For one as children the connections in our brain are forming based on those around. There is a very interesting study that showed that at very young ages children can tell the difference between 2 different monkeys but as they grow older they are unable too. Also as I mentioned before our brain naturally begins to group everything together, its how we are able to process an infinite dynamic world when we have limited cognitive processing abilities.

All of this brings us to Starfire. In Red Hood and the Outlaws some people were very upset that she wasn't able to tell people apart and she didn't really remember people she knew before. As I hopefully explained above, people are unable to do that with other people, do you really think that a member of an alien race can do that with humans. Its kinda like the children and the monkeys. At this point in our lives its probably pretty hard for a person to tell the difference between two different monkeys that look similar, to Starfire we are all monkeys. Some people may say that it should be different because they were together so long and they saved each others lives but the opposite is going to emerge. Imagine if a monkey saved your life you would probably never forget that monkey. Now imagine at various points in your life 100 monkeys saved your life. Do you really think you would be able to pick one of those out of a line up?

Now I mentioned a lot of studies, hopefully you can take me at my word and not make me pull them out but trust me they exist and if you want I can go through the articles that I read about outgroup homogeneity and figure out some way to post them

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#1 Posted by knighteagle (29 posts) - - Show Bio

Great article :)

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#2 Posted by PowerHerc (86188 posts) - - Show Bio


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#3 Posted by vuviper (5651 posts) - - Show Bio

Thank You! Especially like the part about her not remembering people. Your monkey thing doesn't really explain the names thing, but it doesn't need to. You're talking about human psychology, and Starfire is an alien, there will be some similarities (as you stated before) and some differences.

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#4 Posted by GraveSp (335 posts) - - Show Bio

@vuviper: yeah I admit that the name element is doesn't fit as well, but one way to look at it is he doesn't ask if she remembers anyone named Nightwing, Aqualad or Cyborg so that could be another explanation.

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#5 Posted by SC (18159 posts) - - Show Bio

Oh, I do this with comics all the time, awesome, anyway, you see where the problem is though? I found your idea/thread as far as layering this (I like to bring this up time to time in other threads) as an aspect of Starfire a lot more interesting to read than a comic I payed for that had art. lol That's to the side of when/how writers make creative decisions. As in, are you defending Starfire or her writers, as in do you think they sat around and talked about all the decades of comic book writing in the past and how alien and human interactions work, and how such interactions would go down as far as realism and or incorporating realism and ways they could introduce such things into writing a character since although discussed and brought up in real life a lot (well depending who you are and what you talk about/study) might be neat to explore in comics or did they think well hey she's alien she won't be human, lets give her a liberal attitude to sex and look really hot and well we justify of because she's not from around here. Now if they did think the former, and plan to explore that in future issues, my creative question, is why not introduce that first? *shrugs* Nudity, like all things to me, has context, so does sex. So does a lot of things. For me the first claim is justified, because to me, sex and nudity are not the same. So a characters dress has no inherent bearing on their attitudes towards sex and so drawing parallels becomes flawed. I do feel I understand the point your trying to make. I agree with your second claim rebuttal in a if we forget she is fictional sort of way, but more than that I think its a cool creative aspect that could be explored more in comics. 

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#6 Posted by GraveSp (335 posts) - - Show Bio

@SC: You know I'm not really sure what the writing process was like but I like to believe that Scott sat down and wrote a character that he felt was real, fitting both with his idea of who Starfire is and how he believes that she would act. I also like to believe that the artists, editors and everyone else on the book saw it in the early stages and agreed with the interpretation and felt there was some truth in it. It is entirely possible that they sat down and asked "Starfire is an alien, how is she different than the humans? How does she see humans?" and those are good questions. Maybe they went the other way and said "Starfire has always been a very sexual character. How can we explain that?" Maybe the thought process was "screw Dick Grayson, lets have his ex sleep with people that will definitely piss him off, oh crap that makes no sense we have to explain it someway." but honestly that doesn't make a lot of sense. It takes a little bit of trust in the writer to hope that they have the characters best interest at heart, and at this stage I would like to believe that the person DC gave 3 books to knows what he is doing in the long run especially in modern comics. In the days where you can go back and pick up Batman and Son and see Zur En Arrh graffiti I like to believe that any aspect of a character can be studied later. Maybe not the first arc but I would not be surprised if after issue 7 we have an issue or subplot devoted to Starfire's attitudes towards humans. That got kinda rambley but I think the answer is in there somewhere

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#7 Posted by SC (18159 posts) - - Show Bio
@GraveSp:  I do think thats definitely a bit off what was discussed creatively. I just also think this was a part of the process as well. - Lets make sure we emphasis Starfire's strength and the idea she is the physically most powerful character here. We aren't showing this character to be weak therefore, this gives us leeway with other creative elements. Lets also emphasis her sexuality. Her sexiness. We know just like everyone knows that sex sells. Starfire has always been a bit sexy (and usually pretty powerful) but yeah, this is an extreme, funny, edgy book. Lets make it sexy too. With hair flipping, casual sex, post coitus moments, and sexy sexy sexiness sexy sex with an x. Lets establish those two things first. (that she is already non human looking and therefore probably/possibly an alien is already established by her visual look)  
The thing with sex selling, is that it does, but usually when people buy something because of the sex, well, what initiatives do they have to stick around? Sex can kick in a door but it doesn't create loyal readers and loyal fans. Unless like the book is like super amazingly awesome. Which to some it might. Oh and sex/sexiness done wrong in comics can actually hurt. I have no doubt that writers and editors are trying to do their best with these characters and this comic, but I think they are playing it to safe as far as trying to look at short term numbers and I think they overestimate how super amazingly awesome the book was contrasting with how aspects of the book have hurt the issue and comic. So to me this issue was playing defense as well as trying to appeal to as many people as possible, but probably only really drawing in established comic readers who can understand that this is issue #1 and will stay on for a little bit and or new fans who will probably drop off around #4 or #5 even if they did like the issue because they got distracted by a really sexy music video and then decided to spend their money on shoes that have those laces that like, do up when you press a button.  
Maybe I am a bit cynical lol but I want/wanted to work in the comics industry (one day) but I have this dread sense its going to be dead in a few years or like massively scaled back and it will be, in my opinion, because of books like this, and not because its so terrible, more so, that it could be, so much, so much better.  
Oh, rambley is good *smile* Thank you for your reply. 
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#8 Posted by GraveSp (335 posts) - - Show Bio

@SC: you make a good point that because they show her to be the strongest character so people think it balances out, it made me go back and look at her actual introduction. He first reference is Jason Todd talking about her tits, eh its Jason Todd he'll do that, he actual first page is HER KILLING A BUNCH OF PEOPLE IN TANKS. Now I could go into the argument of why violence is more acceptable in our culture then sex but I prefer to attack the heart of the arguments of this issue, namely that her portrayal is an injustice to her character. I do not remember her ever killing people, especially what amounts to 3 tanks worth. I remember her being sexual. To me the bigger out of character movie is probably the mass killing which I do not believe I saw anyone complain about.

Now I agree with your point about sex not being good for long term readership but it is an easy draw and you hope that people stick around. I'm sure that DC realizes that if lets say 10 people pick up issue one of a new book maybe half are going to stick around. Maybe they were hoping to draw the people who read The Boys in, they know there will be a drop but they hope that maybe they can get maybe a casual reader who doesn't read Red Hood books, or maybe a Marvel or Image reader who previously wasn't picking up DC books. Honestly I do not understand the marketing side of comic books, I know enough about business to know that it can be beneficial being a niche market.

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#9 Posted by arooo (1 posts) - - Show Bio

Fans of Starfire would be and are well aware of the history of Starfire's sexuality and attitudes toward sex and non-monogomy. Her overt sexuality was never really one of the major complaints against how Starfire was portrayed in Red Hood. The complaints rendered had more to do with how that aspect of her character were done in this new version, especially given how much better it's been done in the past.

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#10 Posted by God_Spawn (43165 posts) - - Show Bio

Interesting article.

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#11 Posted by Whisper_ (3502 posts) - - Show Bio

@arooo said:

Fans of Starfire would be and are well aware of the history of Starfire's sexuality and attitudes toward sex and non-monogomy. Her overt sexuality was never really one of the major complaints against how Starfire was portrayed in Red Hood. The complaints rendered had more to do with how that aspect of her character were done in this new version, especially given how much better it's been done in the past.

^so much this.

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