Out of all the heroic Titans introduced in DC Universe’s new live-action series, Anna Diop’s Starfire received the most attention and outsized backlash. That was in large part due to how much her portrayal was aesthetically different than the character’s comic book counterpart.
Between Diop being a black woman, and Titans’ Starfire sporting a revealing dress accented with a fur coat as opposed to her traditional bikini wear and boots, a number of shortsighted comics canon enthusiasts decided to write the show off entirely.
But for anyone who’s ever actually read a story featuring Starfire, and been keeping up with Titans, this week’s past episode demonstrated that Titans knows exactly what it’s doing and it’s pretty damned inspired.
Because Titans has been primarily focused on laying the groundwork for Rachel’s fight against Trigon, establishing the Doom Patrol’s existence, and unpacking Robin’s struggle with PTSD and anger issues, we haven’t had all that much time with Kory. Aside from the fact that she’s an amnesiac with loosely-defined pyrokinetic abilities tied to how much exposure she’s had to the sun, she’s still very much a mystery to her fellow heroes and to herself.
But it’s in her interactions with Dick, Rachel, and Garfield where she’s able to show us what kind of person Kory is, and just how much of Starfire’s classic self is actually woven into Titans.
Early into the series while they’re opening up to one another about what their powers feel like, Kory explains to Rachel that she thinks of it kind of like a light — one that she doesn’t fully understand, but knows it comes from a place of strength and good she wants to embody. Starfire’s blasts on Titans are a far cry from the more laser-like “starbolts” she’s often depicted as wielding in most comics and animated appearances.
In addition to their offensive capabilities, though, they also serve as an outward manifestation of the part of her powers that are tied to her positive, righteous emotions.
From left to right: Naomi Campbell at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 press conference, Starfire on the cover of Starfire #6, and Anna Diop in DC Universe's Titans.Image: Jemal Countess (Getty, DC Comics, DC Universe)
Soon after the first trailer for DC Universe's upcoming Titans series dropped during San Diego Comic-Con, actress Anna Diop - who plays DC Comics character Starfire - shut down the bulk of her Instagram account in response to a wave of racist backlash and trolling from people unhappy with her casting.
Starfire’s almost childlike wonder for foreign worlds and guilelessness is something that really became a more pronounced part of her character after the Teen Titans original series and the rise of Teen Titans Go! As much as people might associate those things with her character, they’re not exactly elements that would work well within the comparatively dark world of Titans. And so, Kory is instead depicted as being unaware of who she is and who she can trust, but never unaware of what her priorities are or when to have faith in her own decisions to keep herself safe.
All of these subtle reworkings of those core parts of Starfire’s traditional depictions are topped off by her costume which, depending on your taste in ridiculous superhero costumes, will either be a hit or a miss. To be fair, Starfire has never been a particularly subtle dresser.
Most of her canon costumes amount to little more than a few, carefully placed purple napkins and floss. If anything, Titans’ Starfire costumes read much more as ‘70s go-go dancer — something that became obvious this past week when Kory finally changed her outfit for the first time this season.
It’s not even that her first costume was implausible or distracting, it just didn’t make sense that she wouldn’t have wanted to change clothes after spending weeks on the run as a wanted woman. But now, gone is the mini dress, and she’s rocking a choice number that would make Donna Summer proud.
It’s an outfit that feels like a compliment to the pumping disco soundtracks that tend to blare in the background whenever Kory ends up having to incinerate people. It’s an undeniably Starfire costume — loud, luxe, and highly impractical. Most importantly, though, it feels well thought-out. Titans knows exactly where it wants to take its characters and it’s getting even more interesting to watch those plans unfold.