The Starfire Solo from a First Generation American’s Point of View
Since the Starfire solo
series came out, I’ve seen a considerable amount of criticism for the title. To
me, this criticism makes sense because of the sheer amount of infantilism, slut
shaming, and general OOC-ness Starfire endures. However, I’m not going to talk
about that as you can probably guess from the title. @hellakoriandr wrote a great, all-encompassing post about that here, that
pretty much covers all the bases, if you would like to know more.
writing this post because there’s a common defense used for the solo that
I would like to address: “Starfire
isn’t dumb, she’s an immigrant ignorant of Earth’s culture. If you call out
this characterization, you’re xenophobic and racist.”
first generation “American.” My parents were both born in Costa Rica, my entire
family is from and lives in Costa Rica. My sister and I are the first in our
family to be born in a different country and grow up here. American culture is
so very different from our own; everyone in our family speaks Spanish as our
first language, and English as our second.
This is where that
defense of the solo is personally offensive to me and my family.
Aside from RHaTO,
been increasingly portrayed as not just ignorant of Earth’s culture, but as
dumb in general. Starfire’s
characterization took a step back in the Teen Titans 2003
animated series. As much as I love the show, her TV portrayal only retains
about 20 percent of Starfire’s original character.
Her style of speaking is
way exaggerated, awkwardly saying “the” before nouns; repeatedly making language mistakes like “the mall of shopping” and so forth. However, at her core she was
not stupid and displayed intelligence in episodes such as Troq and Bethrothed. She understood
social cues and I think that’s one aspect of her the writers got right. Although she
comes from a different culture, she understands social norms and doesn’t do
anything over-the-top odd. It’s obvious the writers were just
trying to make her seem more foreign, even if they do it in unimaginative and
Her characterization takes another big step backwards in the 2013 series Teen Titans Go!, a straightforward dumbed-down comedy version of the original show. TTG! focuses on slapstick humor rather
than clever jokes, which makes sense, because its intended audience is
comprised of 6-11
year olds. Every character is a caricature of their 2003 TV series self, so it’s not surprising that Starfire has been demoted to the role of pretty and dumb but naively,
nice girl. All glimpses of Starfire’s intelligence are lost, and she mostly
goes through the show being oblivious and “too nice” for this world. The other characters suffered this transition too. Robin is obsessive, painfully awkward, and
tyrannical. Raven is secretly into Pretty Pretty Pegasus.
So I don’t really see the harm. It’s not like a kids’ show is the reason DC
is going to suddenly start portraying Dick Grayson as an emotionally
unstable jerk in his comic iteration, right? It wouldn’t make any sense to translate a character that’s unrealistic,
stereotypical, and aimed solely at young children to a comic book series
marketed towards young women, right?
Starfire takes a final
blow in the Starfire solo series, and it goes beyond Teen Titans Go!. She
doesn’t understand cultural norms to the point where it’s unrealistic and
awkward. Beyond cultural differences, Starfire simply acts dumb. It’s insulting
to me and everyone living in a
country with different cultural values than their own, that people are attributing
Starfire’s sheer lack of intelligence to her foreignness. Ignorance does not equal lack of intelligence, and Starfire is exhibiting both.
When Starfire shakes
baking soda into her mouth, she’s not being ignorant of the fact that baking
soda isn’t something you eat. She is acting illogically.
The fact that she didn’t
read the warning on the side of the box which is made so plainly obvious to the
reader, or that she didn’t maybe just dip her finger in the substance and
sample it before flipping the box over her mouth, or maybe just think “hey,
this isn’t a bubbling liquid like the other sodas” is illogical. I don’t know
if anyone under the age of ten would do that in a foreign country, let alone a foreign world. The fact that people are labelling this behavior
as one of immigrants is beyond insulting. The only reason this panel is in this
series is so the audience thinks of Starfire as a naive, helpless girl that
needs people to help guide her through life. This is infantilization and not a characteristic of immigrants.
see a lot of defenses of her speech patterns, which I would understand if she
had not already learned the English language perfectly.
sounds like a joke to me. She asks, “Will I hurt it?” I’m not familiar with
Tamaran, but I’m pretty sure that if you want to eat something you think is
alive, you have to hurt it. Please, tell me again how this is pure cultural
almost as if this panel was made to make me angry. These sparkling thought
bubbles show up every issue and sure, it’s a cute idea. ‘Hey, let’s put
pictures inside bubbles, that sounds good.’ But it comes off incredibly dumb; she has the thought bubbles because she doesn’t understand American sayings and idioms, which infuriates me.
up knowing more English than my parents, I’ve had a lifetime of family members asking me to explain sayings and idioms. They’re probably what my parents
struggle with the most, even after knowing English for over 20 years. Sayings
and idioms are used more often than you’d think. You can know a language
perfectly and still get tripped up on them because there’s no rules to them.
But I’ll be damned if my parents or anyone who doesn’t know English as their
first language ever thought that “have a drink and meal on me” for a
second meant actually eating food off a person’s head.
are several other instances that offend me if people are attributing all of
Kory’s actions to cultural ignorance, but this post is long enough. This post
is directed at people who think that Starfire’s cultural ignorance is an excuse
for the lazy and demeaning writing that portrays Starfire this way. Your
desperate attempts to defend this problematic title is offensive. My people,
and immigrants in general, are not your way out. I don’t know if the
writers use the same excuse, but I doubt they are going to admit they’re writing
her as an idiot. Please stop portraying Starfire’s lack of intelligence as the
behavior of all immigrants. It’s xenophobic on top of an already sexist title.
I was actually excited
when I heard about the series. Starfire is one of my favorite characters and
the series was originally described as following her journey as she learns about earth’s culture and finds her place in society. As a first
generation American, that subject interests me greatly and I saw overwhelming
potential for the series. Starfire’s ignorance of earth’s culture in New Teen Titans was the most I’ve ever related to
a character in terms of cultural identity. People assumed she was dumb and she
would prove them wrong. She learned to respect earth’s social norms while still
staying true to her Tamaranean identity. Eventually, she even considered earth
more of a home than Tamaran, despite its vastly different culture. She was an
inspiration to me, especially since I never felt as though I belonged in
neither Costa Rica nor the U.S. She was an incredible example of dealing with
cultural discrepancies beyond language barriers for me and others like me.
Teen Titans v1 #31)
Long live New Teen Titans
Starfire. She’s my hero.
744. Starfire loves Adventure Time. Beast Boy loves all of the Ben 10 series, especially the last 3. Cyborg and Robin both like the show G.I. Joe: Renegades. And Raven fancies My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
3374. Raven once used a spell to bring her Pretty Pretty Pegasus toys to life. They turned against her and escaped to a hellish realm where they established an evil pegasus army to take over Earth one day.
The Teen Titans Go version of Raven is awesome. You can be cool and goth and have and arsenal of pure bad-assery, but if there is something that makes you happy, nothing should be able to say you can’t enjoy it. You see feminists who HATE girly things and girly stereotypes, and girly girls who are just filled to the brim with LACE AND RIBBONS AND PINK AND BOYS LIKE YA OMG but TTG Raven with her pretty pretty pegasus shows that its ok to be on one side…and like a bit of the other. It’s ok to not be inherently girly, and still like girly things. You shouldn’t be shamed for liking what you like.