Saturday, December 3, 2011

It's Not All About the Clothes

In an older post from the beginning of the semester, one blogger referenced this article about Star Fire's new appearance in the new 52 series: Today, I found an unconventional response to the same series written by a mother and her seven year old, comic-obsessed daughter. What I found most interesting about this, however, wasn't the age or dynamic between the authors, but their argument for why they both strongly disliked the new Starfire.

The seven-year-old claimed her favorite superhero was Starfire because "She's like me...[even though] she doesn't always say the right thing, or know the right thing to do...but she's a good friend, and she helps people. She's strong enough to fight the bad guys, even when they hurt her...And she helps the other heroes..." Like many of us, this girl favorite chose a hero with which she could identify and, most importantly, one that embodied her ideals.

When shown Starfire in a pretty revealing costume rom a Teen Titans comic book released in 2008 and asked what she thought about it, she responds, "well, she's a grown if you're a grown up and you want to wear something like that you can. It's okay." I found this response interesting because there was no criticism of her outfit, but then I also questioned to what degree would one critique one's own hero? She also talks about how Starfire is helping kids learn to use their powers and about her protective nature. It's most important to note that she only talks of Starfire's actions, making absolutely no reference to the outfit unless directly asked about it.

The Starfire in the Teen Titans comic book:
When asked about Starfire in the new 52, we see a very interesting response. She briefly comments on the revealing nature of the swimsuit, but more importantly she says, "but, she's not relaxing or swimming. She's just posing a lot...she's not fighting anyone. And not talking to anyone really. She's just almost naked and posing." Again, she doesn't linger on the costume, instead focusing on her actions. When asked if she considers this Starfire a good hero, she says no. Why? Not because of her oversexualized outfit, but because she's not doing anything.

The Starfire in the New 52 Series:
While we can criticize creators for degrading female characters by putting such heroes in skimpy outfits, this is not the real problem. It's not all about what the characters are wearing, but rather about who they are, the choices they make, and the things they do throughout the comic that really make the character. This seven-year old looked past the outfits and judged Starfire based on her actions, and we should to. Clothes are just superfluous and if creators really want to make a change in the comic industry, they should start with giving female characters a more meaningful role. They must give the women a purpose in the plot, a series of relevant actions...even if they're shown as naked while doing it.


  1. Wow, this is a really interesting insight. It's true, we have spent a lot of time in class bashing the clothes women are put in in the media, but that's not really the important part. What really matters is what these women do, not what they wear. Sometimes we need the views of the more simplistic mind of a seven-year-old like this girl to put things into perspective.

  2. This is such an interesting article. I am really surprised that the 7 year old's view on the super heroine changed due to her actions, not attire. However, I do think that comic writers should make attire somewhat appropriate for younger readers, as they are still impressionable and are influenced by what their role models are wearing. This 7 year old is definitely an exception; I think that most young children who see their hero dressed as such would think that is how they should dress when they are older. What does everyone else think?

  3. I agree with Elizabeth that heroines should still be dressed appropriately. Despite the fact that action is more influential than attire, it is important for children to see super heroines dressed in an acceptable manner so they won't start seeing sexy clothing as the norm. The more children are exposed to heroines dressed in risqué attire, they more they will start to feel it is acceptable. Much like how short-shorts used to be shunned but are now accepted by society and widely worn, if super heroines are portrayed dressed provocatively while saving the world, children may be influenced to feel like it's acceptable to dress the same as their role models.

  4. While its true that clothes don't make the person, there is a limit to what is appropriate. This "outfit" is clearly a thinly veiled fan service attempt and completely clashes with the original concept of Starfire's character. I'm not against revealing outfits, just against completely stripping characters of their original personalities as an excuse to put them in revealing outfits.

  5. I agree with EspeciallyZoidberg that there is a limit to what's appropriate and what's not. Although costumes did not change the way that a 7-year-old thought of the heroine, overly sexualized female characters come across to me as something offensive and demeaning to female body and gender, in general. Personalities of the characters can be delineated in ways other than showing off the heroines' "assets." Although some might argue that it is understandable to use skimpy outfits because the comic has to sell, there are plenty of other ways to impress viewers/readers, and this article proves that very point.


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