One criticism that pops up in a lot of media analysis is the Madonna/wh*re dichotomy: how ‘good’ female characters dress more modestly while ‘bad’ female characters dress more provocatively. Related criticisms include the femme fatale/evil seductress, who shows off more skin and dresses sexily.
Well, when I watch Teen Titans, I find an interesting subversion.
In the show, all the female Titans and Honorary Titans show a little bit of skin. We all know how Raven bears her legs and Starfire wears a miniskirt and shows her midriff, but all the other female characters show some skin too. Bumblebee bears her midriff and arms and wears fitting black pants and boots, Kole and Argent wear short skirts (with Argent showing her bare shoulders), and Pantha proudly shows off her muscly arms and legs.
There’s also a minor but very important character, Sarasim, who, when not wearing her full-body armour, wears significantly less clothing.
For the most part, none of these girls are sexualized.
By contrast, the important female villains are all completely covered up. And they use their wit and skill, rather than their bodies, to get what they want. The only female villains that show any skin are extremely minor villains with no speaking roles. (There’s also Kitten, who only shows a little skin when she’s wearing a ball gown on a date with Robin; in other scenes she’s covered).
This even extends to the heroines. When Starfire first came to Earth and posed a threat, she was fully clothed. But once she had settled on Earth and became a heroine, she wore the freer outfit we know her.
And of course, there’s Terra.
When she’s with the Titans, she wears shorts and at one point, shows her midriff:
Then, when taking over the world with Slade, she is completely covered up:
(I couldn’t find a better image, sorry)
Then, when her loyalty to Slade wanes, she starts showing skin:
I just find all this very interesting in terms of character design. I’m not sure if there was any intention to give the villains more clothing than the heroines or not. What do you think?