Teen Titans, No: DC’s Superhero Woman Fail

Entertainment GeekMom
c. DC Comics
c. DC Comics

I am a huge fan of the DC SuperHero Girls line. The costumes are adorable, the action figures are age-appropriate in terms of both anatomy and uniform choice, the animated shorts are cute (though I could do with less Cheetah mean-girl drama), and the hour-long television special was beloved by both my daughter and my son as it should be. We always complain about the boys getting the good toys; it would be hypocritical to deny them the joy of the SHG radness.

The collection of visual media, toys, and books is also a huge step forward for DC in terms of demographic inclusiveness and recruitment of new fans. Applause, well done.

I had assumed it was only the first step in an initiative.

You know what they say about assumptions.

batman-bad-blood-header-32
c. DC Comics

Imagine, if you will, the swarming of the rage bees I experienced last night while watching the adult-oriented (swearing, violence, blood, yet more murdered parents) Bad Blood and Justice League vs. Teen Titans when I realized that not only had the initiative failed to materialize but DC had chosen in these films to banish their superhero women back to the dark ages.

I don’t love the newer, animated Wonder Woman costume and I still think she should have pants but, okay, the vital personal parts of her anatomy are covered and contained. Batwoman’s super suit is actually viable as such and she, at least, is armored everywhere important.

Take her out of the suit, however, and Kate Kane is, apparently, just as much an object as any other DC heroine. At least, that’s what’s implied by the utterly gratuitous underwear fight scene.

Allow me to set this up for you: Kate is at home, attempting to decrypt a hard drive. She is doing so wearing a very short robe which is, as we arrived, belted shut. Is it what I wear when I’m doing tech support? No, but, okay, work from home, etc., I know there are plenty of people who teleconference in a collared shirt and boxers. I can let it go.

Until we find out Kate shares the house with her father. Do you walk around in your underwear in front of your father, ladies? No? Me neither. My father hasn’t seen me sans clothes, even when I was in labor, since I was eleven and having a suspicious mole removed from my right butt cheek. Am I a prude? I don’t know, maybe, but it isn’t something I’m comfortable with.

Regardless. Dad comes home and it turns out he’s been brainwashed by Talia al Gul. He attacks Kate (which is a whole different article). She fights back, as well she should. In doing so, her robe comes open and she ends up fighting her father in her bra and panties.

Why?

I have no idea. It is totally unnecessary and it’s gross, especially in a universe/framework wherein violence is often equated with foreplay. (That would be yet another article and one that would have to include some glaring Marvel slip-ups as well.)

I get that, in a fight, one’s robe might come undone. Fine. But if she’s going to be fighting, why put her in the robe in the first place? Clearly so that it could come open. While she was fighting her father. Resulting in Batwoman fighting her father in her underwear.

The only reason for events to roll out that way is so that Kate Kane would end up wearing as little as possible. So that a strong and powerful woman is made to be vulnerable by being naked. Which, by the way, doesn’t make her victory any more badass.

This is not tantalizing. It is gross.

It makes the viewer a voyeur and it made me really uncomfortable.

c. DC Comics
c. DC Comics

Let move on to Justice League vs. Teen Titans.

I think we can agree Starfire’s costume has always been problematic. It was problematic when she was a teenager because it was clearly for the edification of the school-girl fetish crowd, which is also icky. Let me be clear: if an adult woman chooses to take on that role for her partner, and they both enjoy it, power to them. But grown people should not be looking at actual teenagers that way. It is pervy. It is also, were she an actual child, illegal.

Sadly, while Starfire has grown up, her costume has not. Literally, it’s the same size as it was years ago but now, she has very well-developed lady parts which are barely contained by her boob window.

That’s all history, however. What bugged me, even more, was something new. During a scene at a carnival, Trigon attacks Raven and the rest of the Titans go to her aid. Beast Boy and Robin are wearing their uniforms under their clothes. Blue Beetle has some sort of under-armor.

Starfire’s clothes burn away, leaving her naked for several beats until her “uniform” comes out of nowhere to sort of cover her.

No, you don’t really see any anatomy, just an outline but it is very clear that she is completely unclothed. And again, there is absolutely no reason for it. Like Kate Kane’s underwear fight, it transformed a powerful woman into an object of the male gaze. It isn’t as though her uniform is so bulky it won’t fit under regular clothes; hell, when Batwing armors up for the first time in Bad Blood, that armor goes on just fine over dress pants and a collared shirt. The only explanation for her nudity is a deliberate choice to strip a hero naked for ogling purposes.

My husband  frequently tells me he thinks I take these things a little too seriously (and he is firmly in the feminism camp), though he has definitely become more sensitive since we had a daughter. This Starfire thing, though? Before I even inhaled, he looked at me and said, “Yeah, I didn’t think this was okay either.”

DC, you give us girls and then, when they become women, you strip them all of their gains, literally and metaphorically.

That is not okay.

You were so close. And we have higher expectations now. We know you can do better.

Don’t show our girls they can be heroes and then turn them into objects of fantasy. Don’t give our boys the expectation of being permitted to gaze upon intimate moments of a woman’s life without her permission.

We all deserve better.

Get on that, would you?

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5 thoughts on “Teen Titans, No: DC’s Superhero Woman Fail

  1. Not a supporter of the Starfire sequence.. but I think they were going for a Magical Girl parody scene and missed the mark.. it was a pure Sailor Moon homage that did not at all fit the content of the film… also.. be glad they did not use Kori’s original or initial New 52 designs.. as a father of three girls it bothers us all but this time it was my daughter who laughed it off when I got upset.

  2. While I agree that these female figures are often oversexualized, and I enjoyed your article, I don’t think that costume change was necessarily intended solely for that purpose as much as it was trying to allude to the common anime magical-girl trope costume change bit. We can see that in Sailor Moon as well as Madoka Magica among other magical-girl anime.

    However, that’s another story. I still did not appreciate the sequence at all. I found it in bad taste and quite out of place. It didn’t really make sense at all. None of the animation style alluded to traditional anime in any way, so to see this Sailor Moon sequence just felt so forced.

  3. While I do agree that the whole Batwoman fighting in her underwear scene against her dad realistically would be incredibly odd, uncomfortable and the whole underwear at a parent’s house thing is kind of unrealistic unless you have an odd super good bond with them…I guess they had what happened happen to kind of present an unusual yet somewhat realistic scenario of what could happen if you were in a robe and happened to have to fight someone. I guess the setting of that fight was very unrealistic, and maybe the animators wanted to animate a near nude woman fighting, but I don’t think it made Kate weak, if anything, it showed that weather clothed or not, she was still strong as she didn’t let her near nude status affect how she fought nor the fact she was near nude infront of her dad, or even the fact she was fighting her dad. I think most people, in a position where you’re near nude, having to fight against a parent, would be affected by the fact you’re near nude, but I think Kate was strong in that sense. Again, weird scenario, not promoting it, but logically speaking, I don’t think it weakened her character.

    As for Starfire, while her old design from the comics were always quite revealing, the ‘transformation’ sequence I guess was tribute to Sailor Moon. Not sure why though, and it didn’t really fit in either with the feel of the film as it felt more like Starfire now had magic abilities, but yeah, that’s what that was. The film could’ve done without it.

  4. I totally agree. I hadn’t been paying much attention to Bad Blood apparently because I only remember there being a fight, not what Kane was wearing. But ugh.

    As for Starfire, I actually don’t care if it’s a reference to Magical Girls as a thing. That just means they intentionally referenced someone else doing something objectifying and not only didn’t realize it was a problem when someone else did it but decided to repeat it in homage. Why aren’t any of the dudes left in their boxers or less? The fact that they aren’t tells us why it was done. If it actually makes sense for Starfire to just not give a crap, fine, but then treat it as normative and don’t focus on her body. In scenes of men who happily walk around naked, the focus is still on their face, usually as they look rather proud of themselves. Or they cover up and look embarrassed, but their face is always there unless it’s a shot from behind and then usually their head and it swaps to their face. They get to own their nudity, by choice. Let’s try that with the woman, if they have to be nude or nearly so. And let’s start having Batman or Nightwing walk around in their skivvies. Or would Alfred disapprove?

  5. A year later and I still love this article. I seen it happen again in one of the teen titan movies. Where Nightwing is Skyping starfish who’s barley clothed. Then her screen only shows her breasts, again barley covered and Nightwing eyes look directly at them. I get that these aren’t exactly geared towards kids but like the others said. Why can’t we see Nightwing or bats running around in their boxers or changing. I called it out to my bf right when they objectified the women characters and blasted dc on Twitter for it.

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