Wednesday, May 27, 2020

I hate "Stargirl"

Only one or two episodes in, and I'm already sick of Stargirl.

Perhaps that's not entirely fair, since I was sick of Stargirl the character LONG before the show started. Nevertheless, it is true, and watching the pilot certainly didn't help.

First, she's the most painful and obvious Mary Sue in comics.  Well... in DC comics, any way.  I'm sure Marvel has someone worse, simply as a matter of principle.  And, yes, I know why she is, and, frankly, I do not care.  It's not an excuse for continuing to INSIST that we love her and that she's the Sensational Character Find of 1999. DC editorial -- some people more than others, mind you -- have been forcing her down our throats for 21 years now. Stargirl by Geoff Johns (9781401297121): Johns, Geoff ...
Since Jack Knight Starman. THAT's how long this has been going on.

And, as far as I can tell, to no avail. I have never hear anyone call themselves a Stargirl fan; I've never even heard of the existence of any Stargirl fans.  I mean, STEPHANIE BROWN has fans. But not Stargirl; what does that say?  

Spoiler - Stephanie Brown - Home | Facebook

No one was crying out for Justice For Stargirl, let alone for her to have a show, and yet, here it is.  And it's painfully trite in ways I couldn't have even imagined.  Some of it is intrinsic to the characters.  Goofy "Frankenstein Junior" robot-suit god-awfully named "S.T.R.I.P.E."  (do NOT look up what the acronym stands for, it will not help, I guarantee it).  The 'step-parent' conflict dynamic.  Courtney's "born heroism" and her 90's-era midriff and biker shorts.  

Breaking News: Say Hello to Stargirl | DC
How is this ALREADY more dated than a 1940s boy circus aerialist?

But some of it is NOT intrinsic to the characters: it's special sitcom hackery brought to us just by the showrunners.

A high school with preposterously stereotypical jocks, and Movie Bullying, and The Losers Table.  Oh, and the Chief Bully is the Chief Villain's son; how terribly convenient it all is.  Note that that is in the same town the show goes out its way to show is So Much Nicer and Friendlier Than The Big City.  

Jake Austin Walker, Jasun Jabbar Wardlaw Jr., Yvette Monreal, and Sam Brooks in Stargirl (2020)
Nickelodeon called and wants its show back.

Oh, naturally, the Cosmic Staff is kept in a crate in the basement (where Courtney can literally stumble upon it) rather than somewhere safe and secure (heck, Pat's SUIT is under lock and key). A basement where, by the way, Lily Munster must go down EVERY DAY to refresh the cobwebs.  

Tim Burton's Creations. — The cobwebs in my house just became ...

How is removing cobwebs not THE FIRST THING YOU DO in every part of your house once you move in?  Who sold them this house FULL OF COBWEBS?! It's more cheap cinematic short-hand.  Cobwebs = disused area for old things, logic be darned.

That terrifying homunculus who plays Courtney's off-the-rack precocious annoying stepbrother?  I fear staring at him for too long, lest he steal my soul.  

The Boy III: Brahms' Revenge

Pat "couldn't find any trace of the Injustice Society" in Blue Valley, population 42?  How about the local brain surgeon who is obviously Brainwave or the total jerk-wad who runs the local gym and is clearly the Sportsmaster?  The one who's training you? I see why Pat was just a sidekick, he's as dumb as a rock.  A rock who can build a flying mecha-suit out of old car parts, of course.  And who, as his stepdaughter is facing off against Brainwave (who killed his previous and much more experienced partner), has the sang-frois to laugh about being called her sidekick?  Will that be funny once Brainwave has crushed HER with a schoolbus, Pat?

Speaking of Brainwave; he has a son who is Courtney's age (or a year or two older). Meaning Brainwave had a wife and a sevenish year-old when he killed the Justice Society.  How did THAT work?  "I'll be late for dinner, honey; gotta kill the JSA after work!" And having accomplished this masterwork of villain decides to... hang in Blue Effing Valley for ten  years?

Gambler - Injustice Society - DC comics - Character Profile ...
Guess they never got around to carving up the U.S.; "Eh; Blue Valley's nice enough."

Also, why is the son of one of the DCU's brainiest villains (it's... in the name) a meathead jock? Not because it makes any sense, but simply because it's Hollywood rules: high-school bad guys are meathead jocks. Never smart guys. Why? Because nerdy kids who resent meathead jocks are the ones who write this stuff.  Where I went to school, all the meathead jocks were danged nice, in fact. Big sweet quiet guys; the intellectuals in AP classes were the vicious domineering ones.

Stargirl, S.T.R.I.P.E. & Brainwave costumes sneak peek at DC ...
And they dressed just like that. 
Drama Club, you know.

And the cosmic staff.  Well, it LOOKS perfect, I'll give them that.  But now it's a feisty anthropomorphic sidekick.  It's the Magic Carpet from "Aladdin"; I can't tell you how annoying I find that.  All the reviews keep calling it her 'magic staff' and, although the inaccuracy of that bothered me at first, I can't blame them.  Because there is zero about it that says 'science' (not even COMIC BOOK science); even if you treat it as MAGIC it's hard to swallow.  

Oh, yes; the Tire Factory. The 'backbone of this community'.  And Pat's auto-shop. And the mecha-suit built from car parts. And the classic car visual motif to all the promos. Oh, that's right; Geoff Johns is from Detroit, so "Stargirl" is also a memorial to a bygone city and era, not merely a tragically killed relative.

Look, I'm all for revivifying public awareness of and interest in the Justice Society.  I'm just saying: Stargirl seems like a high price to pay.


John C said...

I don't know. I would have preferred a more direct Stars and STRIPE adaptation (no JSA, no transparently apocalyptic "secret" season arc) and it has the flaw that most shows targeted at teenagers have of refusing to focus on the characters who seem to have the most going on (Barbara working for the evil philanthropic organization that employs half a town, in this case), but it's obvious that it's really intended for an audience of one (the late Courtney Johns) and from that perspective, it's more fun to watch than the majority of live-action Superman or Batman adaptations.

As for "the most painful and obvious Mary Sue in comics," I know he's sort of a celebrity around these parts, but doesn't that title to go Starman? He went from a mildly-entertaining nobody with a glow-in-the-dark sex toy in the 1940s to elbowing his way into the patriarch position of another legacy at his retirement party in the 1980s to magically becoming the backbone of the DCU who invented everything, mentored everyone, and spawned many generations of hero. And likewise, Courtney only became an in-universe high-profile superhero when a Starman decided that she was part of his family.

Actually, Crisis on Infinite Earths resulted in a couple of these. We suddenly ended up with a Wildcat who trained every superhero to fight, a Martian Manhunter who mentored every major superhero as a child and had always been a major player in the JLA, and Black Canary was suddenly supposed to be leadership material. But Starman always struck me as the most obvious "no, no, this guy you don't care about is the one you should absolutely care about, because of how important I'm gonna make him..."

Anyway, the show isn't as good as Doom Patrol (even though Alan Tudyk is so very tiring), but not much is.

Bryan L said...

I'm taking a "wait and see" position here. My hope is that Stargirl embraces the sheer bat-shit craziness of Legends of Tomorrow (which also got a very rocky start) and develops into more of an ensemble cast (present-day JSA, please) like Legends and Arrow did. Considering the probable expense of STRIPE CGI, I don't think the suit will continue to be a major factor in the show.

What I don't want is another dour, grim show like Batwoman, that's obsessed with its own highly restricted world. (Seriously, is Alice the only villain in Gotham? At all? Everybody's on the same Earth -- bring over some villains from other shows and let Kate win by being smart and better prepared.)

Flash has devolved into a one-note show as well, that just recycles speedster after speedster instead of looking for other metas, like they did for a while. Hopefully Stargirl will steer away from having her primary villain be her exact opposite/evil counterpart.

Can't speak to Black Lightning -- I've got the last half of the last season sitting on my DVR untouched. Which I suppose does speak to Black Lightning, now that I think about it.

I'm sticking to the CW here -- Doom Patrol is in a class by itself.

cybrid said...

They could always bring in Billy Batson (Captain Shazam or whatever) as her love interest, the way he briefly was in Geoff Johns' JSA. Johns raised the topic of a teenage girl dating a teenage boy who is ALSO an adult co-worker, then apparently realized there was really nowhere to go with it in a comic book and dropped it* (unless it was never intended as anything but an elaborate setup to the scene where Per Degaton secretly watches Stargirl sobbing her heart out over breaking up with Billy; What A Jerk). Maybe we could see how the concept works on TV.


*Jay Garrick shut down what he perceived as a romance between a minor (Stargirl) and an adult (Shazam) -- the taboo of which is based on the idea that the minor isn't "mature" enough to have a relationship with an adult -- while taking it for granted that Stargirl is "mature" enough to make an informed decision to risk her life on a regular basis. Realistically, of course, that's because teenagers fighting super-villains is not real-world behavior that can be emulated, unlike minor-adult relationships, which, much like illicit drug use, IS real-world behavior which comic books cannot be perceived to be "endorsing" (even when readers know that the "adult" is actually another teenager). From an in-universe perspective, though...

Anonymous said...

"Can't speak to Black Lightning -- I've got the last half of the last season sitting on my DVR untouched. Which I suppose does speak to Black Lightning, now that I think about it."

Do watch it, it's the best of the superhero shows. Although the themes in BL completely fall apart in a world where Lex Luthor is president, Supergirl lives just seconds away, and superpowered people are springing up all over the place.

About teenage superheroes, if they ever want to do a Teen Titans right, do it the way teenagers might actually go about it: Blue Beetle texts Red Devil to see if he wants to investigate a thing, they meet up by the Circle K, do their crimebusting, then switch to civilian clothes and hang out with their pals at the bowling alley. If there is to be a headquarters, it won't be a giant "T" in the harbor; it'll be a disused Wayne Industries warehouse where Bumblebee provides an old couch and an xBox, and Damien Wayne obsessively works on security systems and accuses everyone else of being no-good layabouts.

Scipio said...

"Per Degaton secretly watches Stargirl sobbing her heart out over breaking up with Billy; What A Jerk"

An awesome scene; very memorable.

Dave said...

Wow, Scipio;

It's not great so far, but it's hardly the shitshow you're painting it as. I'm willing to give it some time because I saw how Legends overcame that gawdawful first season (and redeemed even that when Casper Crump showed up last season).

I don't think I'm the target demographic for this one, but considering how every other damn thing is aimed at teen girls these days (seriously; does EVERYTHING need to be a YA novel where all the characters have been regressed to their teen years?), it fits in that demo.

Better this than, yes,Batwoman, which has the same damn plot every week (Kate thinks, against all evidence and common sense, that Alice can be reformed. Alice wants to kill Kate and rather than just pulling out a gun, she goes to typically "super villainous" lengths to hatch stupid plots) and suffered the painful "acting" from Ruby Rose and Rachel Maddow (stick to analyzing the news, Doc).

Of course, almost all the DC shows suffer from terminal stupidity (Barry's inability to do anything intelligent, the desperate attempt to create relationship between Kara and Lena Luthor, the idiotic pigheadness of the Pierce sisters), so anything in Stargirl fits right in.

Anonymous said...

"the idiotic pigheadness of the Pierce sisters"

In their limited defense, they are legitimately in a bind where inaction almost certainly means lots of people getting hurt. So I see why they disobey their father's admonitions about staying home and letting Uncle Gambi and him take care of things.

That said, the Pierce sisters push youthful callowness into the territory of unthinking recklessness a bit too often. Just once I'd like them to sit down with Gambi, or someone, and try to work out a plan for what they're going to do, including an escape plan if things go very wrong. You'd think they'd know enough to do that by now.

And, do the citizens of Freeland really not know that Thunder and Blackbird are the same person? I feel like everyone knows it, but nobody bothers to talk about it. Because I don't see any way that people couldn't put two and two together on that one.

Scipio said...

"I don't think I'm the target demographic for this one"

I openly question whether that is true. I mean, not that I think you are a teenage girl. Quite the opposite: I don't see any reason to believe that teenage girls ARE the audience for this show. They SAY that; but in fact it's for middle-aged men who want to THINK teenage girls are like Courtney. Do you know any teenage girls like Courtney? The female characters in actual YA material don't act ANYTHING like that.

Anonymous said...

I think you may be on to something about the demographic "Stargirl" is going after. Ew.

Dave said...

I don't know about teen girls, but the women I teach in my college classes aren't significantly different so far.

Bryan L said...

@anonymous: I will get around to watching Black Lightning. I'm ridiculously stubborn about giving shows/comics/movies/businesses leeway to win me over, long after I should probably pull the plug. At this point, only Robert Kirkman and Brian Michael Bendis have managed to stay on my "no more chances" list.

Marcos said...

Having watched episode two, I think the show shows some promise. I mean, they already took out one of the Injustice Society, which I figured was going to be an end-of-the-season all-at-once kinda deal. Though it makes me wonder why Jeff Winger didn't have better luck taking them out ten years ago; once Courtney had the staff, it seemed to be "super easy, barely an inconvenience". I mean, why didn't he just give them both strokes like he threatened to do with Barbara? What the heck good does a giant robot suit do against someone who can invade your brain?

But I am actually curious to find out why the whole ISA decided to pack up and move to Blue Valley. I think we've seen them all at this point:? Tigress, Brainwave, Icicle, The Wizard(*), Sportsmaster, Grundy, The Gambler. Well, promo material indicated the Dragon King was going to be on the show, and we haven't seen him yet, either in the flashback or the present. Maybe they're all there to wake him up or something.

The show is tropey as hell, but dammit if Luke Wilson's aw-shucks charm doesn't work on me. I don't know why. Also, I fully support his decision to go to the gym and "get ripped", but it's not like he's in bad shape to start with; maybe he's not up to "Crusher" standards, but from the dialogue you'd think he was the ninety-pound weakling in an Atlas ad from the back pages of an old comic.

(*) I'm glad even Berlanti's legendary sense of fidelity to the source material wasn't enough to keep The Wizard's real name as "William Zardo".

Anonymous said...

Okay, I decided to watch this show solely on Marcos' observation that Jeff Winger was in it. And I'm disappointed that he didn't stop the Injustice Society with a classic Winger speech: "Each of us is the Injustice Society in our own lives, because we're afraid to be our own Justice Societies of America!"

And yeah, this show is turning out Mary Sue-y as hell. Sniffing out a Mary Sue is delicate business, but almost by definition, a Mary Sue is identifiable by the writer making choices that are for the writer's benefit more than the audience's. The first episode dwelt just a bit too much on how Courtney has awesome attitude, awesome gymnastic skills, awesome awesome awesome.

So, have both Starman and Stripesy been banging Courtney's mom?

I don't know what to make of that Cosmic Staff just yet, except that it's annoyingly wacky. There MIGHT be an explanation, such as, it is a cutting-edge science thing whose mental interface requires that it be able to mirror emotions and responses of its user, or something.

I do like that Brain Wave genuinely thought Courtney was attacking him through his son; that's a bit better than, he detected the Cosmic Staff being used and decided to go after her. That said, that battle with Courtney was just begging for him to say, "what a shame ... your first day in action and it's already time to re-TIRE". Have supervillains abandoned all standards? It's even a dad joke so it would fit!

Marcos said...

@Anonymous - No speech, but the bit where he keeps telling Stripesy "No, not you. Really. Trust me on this. It's not you. Sh sh sh sh." did feel very Wingeresque.