Friday, October 21, 2011

Scott Lobdell And The First Rule Of Holes

Hey, everybody, it turns out I'm a slut-shamer!

Scott Lobdell said so!

In a recent Newsarama interview, Lobdell responded to criticisms of his portrayal of Starfire in Red Hood And The Outlaws#1:

What surprised me was that it almost caused the Internet to melt.

 Mostly, what has surprised me has been the very vulgar way that people believe they are coming to the defense of Kori: they hurl words like "slut" and "whore" and expressions too disgusting to repeat here that are only used to demean women. 

Lets consider an imaginary woman who has more than one or two lovers. Is it fair to label her with dismissive and derogatory language? Because we disagree with the choices she makes, to do what she wants with her own body? Are we still at a place in society where we're going to call a woman — any woman — names that reinforce gender inequality?
The good thing is that the story has gotten people to talk about issues they are passionate about — and that can only ever lead to a better understanding on everyone’s part.

Judging by that response, it's painfully apparent that "everyone" does not include Lobdell himself, because his words indicate that he has no goddamn clue what the real nature of the problem is.

For starters, he twists logic into a pretzel by acting as if the attacks on his handling of Starfire are attacks Koriand'r herself. That way, he can take legitimate criticisms as prominent as this spot-on article by Laura Hudson, or as obscure as this rambling analysis by yours truly (hence my first sentence), and act as though those critics themselves are the ones with the problem, all the while recasting himself in the role of Sir Scott, Tireless Defender Of Female Honor. And missing the entire point completely. (Ragnell covers this tactic in greater detail here.)

The problem is that, in using this reversal tactic, he sidesteps the real problems, all but guaranteeing that he won't take steps to solve them.

In the interest of helping out, I will attempt to explain to our poor "beleaguered" Mr. Lobdell just what those problems are as best I can.

What are the real problems, Scott?

For starters, here's the version of Kory depicted by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, her creators:

Now, here's yours:

Yes, it's true that your version and the Wolfman/Perez one both have a cheesecake element. And no, the problem is not the simply the idea of a radical departure from Wolfman/Perez. Hell, the Teen Titans cartoon's Starfire was a radical (and more G-Rated) departure from the original. The problem is what the original comics Starfire and the cartoon Starfire share, and what your Starfire lacks:


Emotional involvement.

In your version, Scott, love, or any emotional involvement for that matter, has "nothing to do with it". In the older comics and even the cartoon, emotion has everything to do with it. It's key to the very core of her character.

A rebooted Starfire who has no emotional involvement is like a rebooted Dick Grayson who's just not that into acrobatics.

But there's an even bigger problem than character integrity, Scott.

The whole damn point of this reboot was that it was DC's Hail Mary pass to attract as many new readers as possible. Thing is, half your potential audience is women. Women who have to deal with sexual objectification on a daily basis much more than us menfolk. Let's be honest here: Like you, I can only witness second- or third-hand at best what women have to put up with in this regard.

Let me ask you a question: What draws you to comics, Scott?

That's right. Fantasy. Escapism.

Same goes for me. And for other male readers. And follow along with me here, Scott... for female readers as well. The problem is, if you're one of those female readers and you see comics where the female characters are portrayed as objects solely for the pleasure of the male characters, the male creators, and especially the male readers? In other words, the same shit they have to deal with in the real world outside comics? That's NOT an escape!

You know what is an escape for them? Power fantasies. Reading about unique, fully realized, heroic characters they can identify with. The kind who aren't there just to be rescued by the male hero, killed off and/or raped to crank up his angst level, or exist only for his (and the male readers') jollies. The kind they don't get often enough in superhero comics, especially now.

Until your "New 52" reboot, Scott, Starfire was one of those characters. Yes, there was a cheesecake element since her inception. But that was never ALL she was, Scott. Until you wrote her.

And that's why you've been getting grief, Scott. That's the hole you dug yourself into. And recasting yourself as Sir Scott, Tireless Defender Of Female Honor while glossing over the real problems only makes the hole deeper.

My advice to you, Mr. Lobdell, is to abandon these deflections and heed The First Rule Of Holes:

When you realize you're in one?



At 5:45 AM , Anonymous Edmund Gale said...

I agree completely. When I read the interview, my reaction was "No Scott, it's not Kori we have a problem with. We all quite like her, that's why we're so upset." Lobdell has taken a character who was uninhibited and made her uncaring. These are not the same things, not by a long shot.

Also, for a reboot which aims to draw in new readers, this interpretation of Starfire is hardly likely to appeal to the kids who've first encountered her through the Teen Titans cartoons.

At 8:25 AM , Blogger SallyP said...

Well said. I don't think people are upset because he turned Kory into a sex object. She's ALWAYS been sexy. But she was warm and friendly and cute and nice, and it worked. Now? much. In fact, ecchh.

I think that Mister Lobdell has also completely ignored the fact that he portrayed two MEN just as badly as he portrayed Kory. Jason doesn't do much for me, but heck, I always rather liked Roy. Not now. The fact that the two of them would cheerfully use Kory in such a fashion is repulsive.

So Lobdell has maligned not one, not two but three perfectly good characters. Well...Jason wasn't perfectly good, but I'm sure that he had his fans.

At 11:02 AM , Blogger notintheface said...

Last time Jason did anything for me was when he wrangled that Black Mercy onto Mongul.

At 12:40 AM , Blogger Lunar Archivist said...

Excellent article! :)

In light of what you've written, you should join us on Gail Simone's board. Lobdell's supposed to show up at some point to address us all about this issue in a thread that I started. Given how eloquently you've summarized the problem here, you'd be a welcome addition to the debate.

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