Why Starfire Should Get the Spotlight in New ‘Titans’ TV Series

The upcoming live-action Titans TV series is highly anticipated and set to debut on DC’s new digital streaming service as part of its launch this year. Much of the excitement comes from the fact that Teen Titans is one of the most iconic superhero teams in the DC Universe, and for those of our generation who don’t read the comics, they likely watched or at least heard of its cartoon incarnation somewhere along the way growing up. While we don’t have an airdate yet, we already have some fantastic cast members, with Anna Diop (Everybody Hates Chris, 24: Legacy) as Starfire among them. This particular casting is a progressive step made by DC TV and I have high hopes for Starfire in Titans.

Who is Starfire?

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From Tales of The New Teen Titans #4 (1982)

Starfire a.k.a. Koriand’r is an alien princess from planet Tamaran who is also a warrior and a survivor. She was sacrificed into slavery to save her home planet from intergalactic colonialism by the Citadel and was also subjected to cruel experimentations by the Psions. She fought and escaped to Earth and joined the New Teen Titans. There have been many takes on her character through the years, but almost consistently, she is a superhero most well-known for her compassion, warrior strength, and free-spirit.

She is one of DC Comics’ fan-favorite characters and has become a star throughout the years. In the comics, she was one of the characters responsible for making The New Teen Titans a massive hit that drew many readers into DC Comics. On TV, she was popularized through the Teen Titans animated series and became part of many kids’ childhoods. From there, we see many further portrayals of her on TV from Teen Titans Go!, DC animated movies Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, as well as DC Super Hero Girls.

What’s Important About Her Casting?

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Source: imdb.com

Hearing that the gorgeous Anna Diop is going to portray Starfire in Titans was fantastic news. They missed the chance to cast a Romani Nightwing and will most likely cover up the only other actor of color so far – Ryan Potter (Big Hero 6) as Beast Boy – in a lot of green. So assuming they won’t paint Diop’s skin golden (which is another issue with people of color in movies) and keep most of her natural look, this is a great opportunity for Titans to include representation and give people of color someone to deeply relate to. Some people may have countered the racist outrage over this casting by saying, “She’s a golden-skinned alien. She’s not even white so it’s not even race-bending.” But I think we can do better than that – Starfire being portrayed by a black woman is a casting perfectly fitting for her character.

Even as a golden-skinned alien, Starfire’s formative years – as shown in Tales of the New Teen Titans #4, assuming the show will follow the 80’s origin story – are spent in oppression and shares resemblance to the real-life historical experiences of people of color in regards to colonialism and slavery. She understands this important struggle and was part of it herself, despite the context being intergalactic instead of on Earth. Her homeworld, Tamaran, was a place where its people believed in peace but accepted the necessities of war. Even on Earth, in the original comics, she faced anti-alien sentiments and the difficulties of being accepted. Despite her challenges, she survived and became a stronger woman who still believes in love and compassion. These are the qualities loved most about Starfire that I think will best shine through when portrayed by a woman of color.

What do We Want See in Titans?

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From Teen Titans Spotlight #2 (1986)

As a badass black superheroine, this Starfire would resonate a lot more with a black audience. This is the opportunity for Titans to present Starfire as less of a naïve alien trying to fit in like in the Teen Titans animated series and more of a superheroine actively striving for fairness and equality to fit it into a modern setting where racism and anti-immigration are prevalent. She could easily relate and find a connection with humans who have suffered injustice and choose to stand with them. It would give an important context on where her strong yet compassionate personality comes from, something she would not compromise even in the face of bigots (like in the Teen Titans animated series episode Troq). She would find Earth as her new home worth educating, worth protecting, and worth loving.

However, the show Titans must take care to not romanticize this backstory involving past trauma and make it look like just another “exotic” part of her story. What I mean by romanticizing is glossing over this backstory as a tragic, pity element that doesn’t contribute to her current character. That will make the backstory look meaningless and her casting as a woman of color completely wasted. It tends to be easy to slip into that if she gets reduced to solely the white male (most likely Robin)’s love interest used to further his agenda, or even to a fetishized, tropical alien with a purposeless overly-liberated sexuality like her New 52 incarnation in the comics. We have to hope they don’t go that low and make the most out of her true origin story.

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From The New Teen Titans #1 (1980)

So, even though we can say that Starfire is a golden-skinned alien that can be portrayed by anyone without saying that it’s racebending, it would be so much more impactful and culturally fitting when Starfire is portrayed by a black woman. Of course, Starfire was originally not intended to be created as a superhero of color who can deeply reflect real-life situations faced by people of color – not in the way that originally black superheroes can do that for black people. But now, we have a black woman portraying her character. Titans should keep Diop’s dark skin and make the most out of Starfire’s real story to give black people – especially black women – a Starfire that’s appropriately more relatable to them and constructed so much better than her previous adaptations.

What do you want to see from Starfire in the Titans TV series? Share your thoughts below!

 

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