On Tuesday night, DC comics responded publicly to the backlash over the recent Red Hood and the Outlaws and Catwoman issues, with which I’m sure you’re all familiar by now. They did so with tact, acknowledging their fans’ concerns and, naturally, reassuring them that they understand their mistake:
Oh, wait. No, they didn’t. At all. Keep in mind, that second tweet should be read first, like so: Yes, we hear what you’re saying about Starfire. If it upsets you, don’t read it.
In case you’re not sure to what I’m referring, the two recent issues from DC’s relaunch have been heavily criticized not just for their depictions of women, but for their reworking of a character that was, until quite recently, know best for a version of her that was aimed at kids. I’m no expert on Starfire, but I know she was a well-loved member of the Teen Titans crew and that she featured prominently on the cartoon, as well as in some material aimed at an older audience. Fair enough. I can’t speak to her legacy as well as some fans have, in the case of the 7 year old girl who reviewed the comic, but I can tell she’s toed the line between role model for young girls and Vampirella-esque dress-up doll over the years. Certainly not uncommon in the comic book world, but that doesn’t make the recent reincarnation okay.
Many people have said that to complain about her or Catwoman’s portrayal is akin to getting angry at books like The Killing Joke for being “edgy” and “mature.” Those people are missing the point so hard they couldn’t find it with a map. Catwoman isn’t a comic for adults, it’s a comic for manchildren who have no idea how real women think or feel and don’t particularly care to. It reads like bad phone sex. Hey tiger, want to leave the costumes on tonight? Women don’t talk like that. Especially not fiercely trained, independent, smart criminal women with years of experience.
A number of people have said what I’m saying here, but there’s more I want to add to the conversation. I tend lately to hold back on this sort of thing because the internet is a cold, evil place full of useless hatred just as much as it is a warehouse for kitten videos, but on Tuesday night I posted the tweets from @DCComics to my blog with the caption “Not the point, DC. Not the point at all. Starfire’s depiction isn’t inappropriate for children, it’s inappropriate for humans.”
Granted, I was tired, and I could have phrased that last bit more eloquently, but the point was made. I woke up this morning to a several hundred reblogs and comments of every variety. People frustrated with DC’s total lack of care about a pretty significant portion of their fanbase (people who have ever known or been a woman) spoke up and had some pretty interesting things to say. Here are some quotes:
“Well that’s a relief! Thanks DC, I was almost scared there for a moment! I’ll remember that women’s portrayal in media as a posing, unemotional, sex robot– who serves as eye candy and to mindlessly “serve” every male character around her– is acceptable as long as we’re aware of the ratings! Crisis averted! I was almost offended there! Thanks DC! :D”
“Hi my name is DC and this is my way of acknowledging something without actually acknowledging it in any way shape or form”
“DC, you used to be my absolute favorite. I’m fucking disgusted by your actions and your response to the fans. Paying attention to ratings isn’t the point.
You’ve butchered good characters, ones that people of all ages used to be able to enjoy, and made them into these… things that people are disgusted by. That people who fit into these ‘ratings’ don’t even want to read.
This isn’t a matter of Starfire being aimed at an older demographic (which is something that’s failing, by the way, in case you haven’t noticed, DC), it has to do with what you’ve done to characters people love, enjoy, want to see more of. You’ve made them completely turned off to it. You’ve basically looked your fans straight in the face and told them they don’t matter, you’ll do what you want to do. Which, I understand, you can do that. It’s your choice.
But if that’s what you’re going to do, at least stop being such a fucking dick about anything and everything and consider what people are saying. Take a look at the product you’re producing. Something is clearly not right.
Just… seriously. This is painful.”
“Even the (very) few people who like Outsiders think it’s a dumb change. But her inability to relate/interact with humans is a great fit with ‘trying hard to be cool crew’ of Jason Todd and Roy Harper. I’m hoping that by issue 4 it will be revealed that it wasn’t REALLY Starfire, and then real Starfire shows up, calls The Outsiders a bunch of losers and joins another team.”
And, of course, one that sums it up best of all:
Of course, not everyone’s on the same side about the whole debacle:
“Wait THAT’S what people are bitching about? Boo fucking hoo, it’s a woman in a sexy outfit in a comic.”
“I think they are crying less about the outfit and more about her drastic change in personality/motives, but tumblr is really anal about the ‘sexualization’ of women in popular fiction so thats probably why its become a hot topic”
And the icing on the cake:
“God I hate tumblr sometimes. HOW DARE A WOMAN BE SEXUAL. ALL WOMEN NEED TO BE LIKE MUSLIMS. NO SEXINESS ALLOWED.”
…I’m not even gonna touch that one.
Thing is, there are dozens of people who have made the effort just to say “I don’t read comics, I don’t care.” That’s fine. Nobody said you have to, but I do read them. We do. I am part of the large portion of women who read and love graphic novels and yes, I know that comics have been sexualized since long before I’d even heard of Batman, but that’s not the point. I read my fair share of adult comics and I’m a frequenter of the Eurotica catalogue. I like sexy comics. What I don’t like, what we’re upset by, is that DC decided to take this huge step and revamp their entire fictional universe, yet still pander to the same niche audience that will buy their comics anyway regardless of whether or not they look like issues of Bondage Fairies.
DC created 52 titles, of which about 10-15 have gotten good reviews. I’ve really enjoyed Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman, Batwoman, even Birds of Prey and Supergirl, which I was nervous about. I hear great reviews on titles like Batman and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. There was no need for the filler. They could have relaunched with 20 solid, well-thought-out series to greater acclaim than this bizarre hodgepodge of characters, then slowly added additional titles like the much-anticipated upcoming Huntress miniseries when they were thought-out and ready.
People make mistakes, and I know DC is trying. I’d like to believe they’re good people just trying to please a very demanding audience. Some people want sexy, some people want funny, and everyone wants a new favourite comic. Still, they could’ve done better. Somewhere along the line, someone should have spoke
n up about Catwoman flinging herself around in lacy underwear and mounting herself on the Batpole in her first issue. Someone should have raised a hand and said, “Hey, about that Starfire thing… My niece used to watch Teen Titans. Maybe she shouldn’t be a such a hollow dick magnet?”
DC, I hate to pull a mom move on you, but it has to be done: I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.
Just a quick reminder from the editors, everyone! If you feel the same way Kate does (or even if you don’t!), be sure to go fill out that Nielsen survey DC has commissioned.