Liberation Has Nothing To Do With It: Starfire in the DCnU, a hatenovel by rawles
A lot of people have already spoken on the depiction of Starfire in the DCnU, but after reading around a lot in the last few days I’ve decided to add my own thoughts in my own words in response to some of the pushback against the outrage.
Specifically, I’d like to address the assertion that criticizing Kory’s portrayal in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 is a form of slut-shaming and/or arises out of some sort of bitterness about the dismissal of her past relationship with Dick or general resistance to change.
(An aside here: the problem isn’t, fundamentally, that the character changed — outside of the general problems of the DCnU in and of itself. It’s the fact that the story, as structured, is trying to pretend that she hasn’t. This Kory is completely unrecognizable as pre-reboot Kory, a character defined by her passions and her great capacity for love of all kinds, but Red Hood didn’t actually restart the character in order to enact this change in personality, outlook, and method of perceiving the human world. It simply went LOL NO MEMORY. Except, this Kory, by all logic and reason, would have had such a completely different experience throughout her time on Earth that it’s nearly impossible to imagine it intersecting with the experience of pre-reboot Kory. As such, going, “This is essentially the same character you remember as far as her history goes, she just doesn’t remember all that shit!” makes absolutely no sense.)
Two things to directly address the assertions above:
1) I don’t really care about Dick/Kory. I don’t dislike it or anything, but I have pretty much no emotional investment in it whatsoever. It wasn’t formative for me and that’s just how these things go. My only emotional investment as regards Dick/Kory is my general fury at a) the years the canon spent shitting on and dismissing both Kory and the significance and importance her relationship with Dick had to him, and b) the fact people were extremely intent for some time on just having Kory spend the rest of her existence pining hopelessly for Dick.
2) Seems obvious to say but: I have no problem with Kory having as much consensual sex as she wants with whomever she wants. Red Hood and the Outlaws was one of the few titles to which I was tentatively looking forward (and not with hateticipation for a delicious hateread, but genuine anticipation) because I thought it was an interesting combination of characters and, quite frankly, I wanted Kory, Jason, and Roy to be sexy ginger friends who maybe spent some of their time together having friendly ginger sex.
So why the problem with Kory being sexually involved with Roy and Jason in the actual comic?
Put simply: because it’s not about Kory. Someone out there in the wilds of the internet pointed out that the book treated her like a walking blow up doll and that’s not too far from the mark.
See, from the first moment that we have all of our primary players on stage, we begin to find out about how Roy and Jason feel about Kory. Literally the first thing Jason ever says about her is to talk about her breasts (in an erroneous fashion in the service of a not-at-all-clever wordplay, but still) and to boast to Roy about the fact that he’s had sex with her. Roy reacts to this with surprise and indignation and communicates that he feels that Kory is or should be out of Jason’s league.
Kory has no involvement in this conversation except to take instruction from Jason (while ignoring Roy), who then asserts that he’s all she thinks about.
Jason and Roy continue their discussion of Kory, in which she continues to have no part, as they ogle her on the beach. They discuss her past relationships and Jason’s confidence in her apathy about his many fallings out with her ex-boyfriend. They discuss how she perceives the world (Not that “see[ing] humans as [not] much more than sights and smells” really… means anything. I also perceive humans in sights and smells. Unless Kory has no sense of taste, touch, or hearing, which doesn’t seem to be the case, that description is extremely inefficient at communicating anything ~alien~ and makes no sense, but I digress.) and Jason, before heading off, even prods Roy to test out her lack of memory which Roy deems “interesting” while literally rubbing his chin. Then Kory asks Roy if he wants to have sex with her and he emphatically agrees after a brief bit of confusion about her relationship with Jason. (It should be said that this is the only time Kory expresses any type of agency in the book, when she declares that she can do whatever she wants with whomever she wants, but notably this happens in the context of presenting her sexual availability to Roy.)
So, we know that Roy and Jason both find Kory extremely sexually attractive. They make this explicitly clear and their perspectives, as additionally played out through the overwhelming blatant male gaze of the art, are fully apparent. In light of this we are made to understand quite clearly why they choose to have sex with her.
But… what about Kory? How does she feel about them or anyone else for that matter? Why does she want to have sex with them? What reason for it exists in her mind?
The motivations that any given real life person has for having consensual sex with whomever they want is no one’s damned business but whomever they decide to share their reasoning with, but Kory is a fictional character. Which means that for me to connect with her, for me to perceive as her a realized person instead of a blow up doll who does things just to play out male masturbatory fantasies, I have to understand her motivations for doing things or at least be able to intuit some inkling that she has them at all.
Kory has a short memory for “all things Earth” (whatever that encompasses or is supposed to mean) and can’t even reliably tell any given two humans apart. This results in her not only not remembering her loyal teammates, close friends, and lover (and almost-husband) of years, but not even caring that she doesn’t remember.
So…why then is she hanging out with Jason in the first place? Roy’s connection to Jason is a bit unclear as well, but we’re told that he actually hooked Roy up with a mission and then we see him helping to rescue Roy from it when it goes wrong.
With Kory we just see her being there. Just because, I guess. One very vague reference is made to the fact that aliens are unwelcome on Earth and she doesn’t have anywhere to go. So I guess any random human that she can’t tell apart from any other random human is as good as the next? She just likes melting soldiers and couldn’t find any other opportunities to do so? Did all of her other friends, acquaintances, etc. abandon her when her goldfish like attention span wandered?
Apparently, giving any reason as to why she even chooses to be present here, specifically, is just not important. This will be a theme.
Then there’s the sex. This should be an easy one to tease out! Maybe Kory likes them!
Except, we’re never given much indication that Kory feels any particular way about Roy or Jason at all. There’s a brief moment when she seems at least interested in whether she’ll see Jason later, but a few pages after that she doesn’t seem to give a shit if she ever sees him again. We don’t even know that she finds them attractive or who or what she does find attractive. There are pages and pages of T&A cheesecake shots of her from Roy and/or Jason’s (and/or a random little boy’s) points of view. They explicitly address their attraction to and interest in her.
We’re not presented with Kory expressing any kind of actual attraction to anyone. The art certainly doesn’t frame a single shot from her point of view. She doesn’t interact with anyone but Jason and Roy, and the only opinion about them she ever expresses in her scant single page of monologue is that “they make [her] laugh.”
All right, she finds them amusing. You know, I could work with that! Except… no, we’re never actually shown them doing anything that makes her laugh or her laughing at all, in fact. She’s completely humorless in all of her (limited) dialogue and interactions. If they’ve been making her giggle her face off with their antics, it’s, again, just not important enough for us to see.
Okay well, anything about Roy and Jason particularly aside, presumably Kory just enjoys men and she enjoys sex. Boom. Done.
Except, in that case, why is the entire liaison that we’re shown so completely joyless?
We’ve already covered how she doesn’t laugh, but she doesn’t even smile at Roy. She doesn’t seem excited or predatory or anticipatory. Freewheeling liberated sex without deep (or any) emotional ties is fine. Freewheeling liberated sex wherein Kory doesn’t so much as seem interested, even in the prospect of her own imminent pleasure, is just bizarre. Her asking Roy if he wants to have sex is implicitly connected to her prior statement that she’s bored, but once he agrees she never seems any less bored. She’s not shown taking any joy from their presence, from her association with them, or even with the offer of sex whenever she wants it.
Maybe, she doesn’t actually want sex. Maybe another new facet of DCnU Tamaraneans is that they biologically HAVE to have heterosexual intercourse every six hours or so or their nervous systems will shut down and then they’ll turn into a platypus. Maybe Kory is just not into being a duck-billed semi-aquatic mammal, and who can blame her? And maybe that, just like everything else about Kory except her breasts and ass, is just not important enough for us to be given any insight on.
Or maybe her internal processes, her inner life, and her motivations for taking any actions that she takes in this comic aren’t important enough to be presented to us, or even conceived of, because much like in pornography aimed at heterosexual men, Kory doesn’t have to have any reason whatsoever, not even her own enjoyment, to want to have sex with them other than that they’re male and the presumed audience is also male, and it’s easier for them to jack off when the woman in question has no existence outside of being their sex toy.
In conclusion, the reason I personally don’t find this depiction of Starfire empowering and why I have an extremely hard time interpreting it as being an expression of her sexual freedom or agency or liberation is because it’s clearly framed in such a way that it’s not about her at all. She barely exists. It’s not about her feelings or her enjoyment or her desires, it’s about the heterosexual male characters’ enjoyment of her as a convenient sex prop and the presumed heterosexual male readers’ enjoyment of her as a prurient fantasy object.
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- sapphicdalliances said:W O R D. Thank you. ;-;
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