Parting Shot: A 7-Year-Old Girl Who Loves ‘Teen Titans’ Reacts Sadly to the New Starfire
I've been really overwhelmed by the positive response and support I've received from the comics community (and beyond) about my op-ed on female sexuality in the DC relaunch during the last week, and how heartened it made me feel about the possibility for change. This response comic from Shortpacked really hit the nail on the head about how nu-Starfire is in particular a betrayal of all the (mainstream!) fans of the Teen Titans cartoon. I got into comics by watching the X-Men cartoon on Fox as a little kid, so I know how great animated shows can be for bringing in new readers and especially girls, which is why this piece at io9 talking to a 7-year-old Teen Titans fan about how Starfire was no longer a hero to her was so heartbreaking:
Mom: "Is this new Starfire someone you'd want to be when you grow up?"
Daughter: *she gets uncomfortable again*"Not really. I mean, grown ups can wear what they want, but...she's not doing anything but wearing a tiny bikini to get attention."
Mom: "So, you know I'm going to put this on my blog right? (she nods) Is there anything else you want to say?"
Daughter: "I want her to be a hero, fighting things and be strong and helping people."
Mom: "Why's that?"
Daughter: "Because she's what inspires me to be good."
I'm a grown-up lady with a long-term investment -- and full-time job -- in comics, and despite certain moments where I get frustrated and want to beat the superhero genre like a pinata, that's ultimately going to get me past the insulting crap and keep me fighting for the good stuff (and there is good stuff). But in a world where girls are already bombarded with way more uber-sexualized images of women than heroic ones, it's super sad to see one little lady super-hero fan walk away from a character she considered a role model because someone decided Starfire was a better pin-up than a person. If you really want super-hero comics to be for more people than just the hardcore fans, every male comic book writer should be thinking about this girl (or hell, thinking about grown-up female fans like me), every single time they write a lady super-hero.
Several readers wrote to tell me about the laudable rules the creative team of Atomic Robo made for themselves about writing women, and I was particularly moved by the musings of Witch Doctor writer Brandon Seifert, who recently decided to reexamine the way he wrote female characters in comics. That's all it is. It's not about being perfect. It's about being willing to listen and willing to change. And we can change, if we want to. We can make comics that dads wouldn't be ashamed to give to their daughters, because those are the women readers and writers and artists of tomorrow, and we would be a better industry making better comics if there were more of them. Not because of quotas or political correctness, but because as Community creator Dan Harmon said after he made half the writing staff for his television show female:
Now you have a staff that is just as good as the staff you would have had, but happens to be half women. It seems like the greatest thing in the world, because the world is half women. And the male writers across the board, from top to bottom, in their most private moments drinking with me, when they're fully licensed to be as misogynist, reactive, old-boy-network as they want, all they can say is, "This turned out to be a great thing." ...There's a literal, actual difference between men and women, and it's in their blood, and it's in their brains, and it's in their fingertips, and it's in our conversations... I think we have to stop thinking of it as a quota thing and think of it as a common-sense thing.