Solutions

Given that Stephanie does desperately try to impress people, that’s not even a bad thing per say. But I suspect the other problem might be that Stephanie doesn’t really have a wide enough social circle to find somebody else who’d accept and encourage her if others remain too cautious. Either that she has to be more independent or at least seek people other than her own peers.

It’s not that Supergirl has it any better but when she’s exposed to a much wider range of people, she’s not going to be any more socially adept but more in the sense of having a much wider range of experiences with them both good and bad to know which group to belong to. (It could be that Supergirl’s somewhat more relatable to me so.) Or at least have somebody else to fall back on.

If not then she could be left to her own devices. It’s not that Supergirl’s any more independent than Steph but the biggest advantage of having a wider social circle’s having a wider range of experiences and learning to find people to trust or turn to. I could be wrong about Steph but I suspect it would be much more realistic/less sexist if Steph did have other peers to turn to.

Especially outside of the Batman Family where if Tim might not always be accepting or appreciative of her, there’s always somebody else who would. Again not always or consistently so (I know this from experience) but it seems if Supergirl’s any indication, it’s helpful to have a wider social circle which comes in handy.

Going alternative

I still suspect that if DC were to pull a Supergirl on Spoiler, the real difference’s the context and outcome of it. If Supergirl’s fallibility’s rather unexpected especially upon her reappearance where she’s shown to sometimes readily give into bad influences and her baser impulses but ultimately unlearning them, Stephanie Brown would become a more independent character.

More inclined to seek self-expression as there’s no point in pleasing people a lot anyways from being rejected a lot. I get the feeling that Stephanie’s habit of making her own clothes should allow her to make clothes only for herself. There’s also another difference in how they look up to people, even if they do have a habit of pleasing them. Supergirl wants to emulate Superman as she reveres him.

In the sense of seeing him as a role model to look to and in some stories she’s willing to stand in for him. (Same for another girl who fused with Supergirl in another story.) Stephanie on the other hand seems like a glorified fangirl trying to please Tim who gets too hard on her even as they date. But should Black Canary ever show up as Tim’s aunt a lot’s going to change.

Given that Tim barely has a strong female relative and Black Canary’s shown to rebound after being traumatised that her being his mentor and aunt’s going to influence his views of women. Conversely speaking, Stephanie Brown might end up seeking validation in other communities as she realises there’s no point in pleasing Tim or Batman all the time.

Some people do this and that’s unsurprising though it’s also something that’s barely ever attempted in the Batman stories. Even Supergirl’s allowed to hang out with her peers a lot in Legion of Super-Heroes and sometimes with others like Silver Banshee, the other angels, Lana Lang, Red Lanterns, the Amazons, Teen Titans and Justice League (twice) and Power Girl.

That Supergirl gets to hang out often outside of the Superman family might make you wonder how insular Stephanie’s peer group can get. Having her become alternative does provide a profound opportunity that’s not given to her before. Not that Supergirl’s any less independent or derivative.

But more in the sense of having another community to fall back on if one doesn’t always give you what you want. If that’s the case, then it’s overdue. I could be wrong in here but it seems Spoiler’s own peer group’s rather insular and limited compared to what Supergirl gets.

Not that she’s bad

I suspect if a Comic Vine thread’s any indication, it’s not so much that Stephanie Brown’s a bad character but what makes her badly written’s that there’s a tendency to treat her as a massive punching bag. She can be as polarising as Supergirl though the major salient difference’s that nobody expected Supergirl to be this fallible whilst Stephanie tends to be treated as a punching bag. (Not that Supergirl isn’t a punching bag herself but her eventual character development had more to do with developing any real shortcomings.)

Or that some readers do have high standards of Stephanie Brown. I still think the real difference’s that in every storyline Supergirl’s shown to learn from her mistakes or at least try to reign in on her baser tendencies. Not necessarily any less misogynistic but more in the sense of her becoming fallible without writers intending to. Whilst Stephanie tends to be often treated as a punching bag.

Which I think is arguably more misogynistic than what Black Canary, Supergirl and Wonder Woman got. I also suspect should Black Canary ever be portrayed as Tim’s biological aunt, I think that’s when we get a less misogynistic take on Stephanie. Not necessary becoming more competent but would develop in a way writers didn’t expect to. Much like Supergirl though for different reasons for Steph.

Oddly enough, the least misogynistic take on Steph would be her developing into a take no-nonsense alternative type. The sort of girl who realises there’s no point in trying to please people who’d reject you anyways and becomes more self-sufficient because of that. If Supergirl’s unexpected fallibility comes from her being more emotional/socially inept than Superman is (that’s to be expected, at least in recent stories she’s actually older than him and lived in Krypton longer before it exploded).

Which leads to her learing a lot from those experiences, often by undoing what’s been done to her in whatever manner (including the 1990s stories) and progress to doing better things. Logically, Stephanie becomes a much more independent woman who ends up doing what she wants to do because there’s no point in pleasing people who’d reject her anyways. Some people do this anyways.

Not necessarily any less misogynistic but it seems just as Supergirl became a very fallible character willing to learn from her mistakes and aspire to do much better (like Steph in a way), Steph could become a much more independent if left field girl as there’s no point in constantly pleasing people who can’t stand her at all.

Maybe I haven’t read enough stories where she does learn from her mistakes but if DC were to pull a Supergirl on her, in this context Stephanie develops into a more alternative type who prefers to be independent as there’s no point in trying to be more like others anyways.

Dressing to please

That’s not necessarily always a bad thing in and of itself, whether in real life or in fiction. Though I do get the impression that at least in the Chuck Dixon stories, Stephanie Brown does dress up to please her boyfriend Tim Drake (twice I think) whilst my own in-universe understanding of Supergirl dressing up like Superman tends to be done out of cultural and familial reverence*. Sort of like a family tartan as well as seeing him as a role model she aspires to be.

(That helps if because she’s his cousin and she’s got a good reason to emulate him.)

Stephanie Brown on the other hand comes off as a kind of glorified groupie who also gets turned into a punching bag. (I actually think that’s much more misogynistic than what Supergirl and even Black Canary and Wonder Woman get.) As bad as what BC and WW get, at least they tend to dress what they like and will to (at least from what I recall), not because they’re always out there to please their boyfriends.

It could be that either Dixon’s not that good at writing female characters at times (in the sense of making even their love interests have more of a real will of their own or at least not come off as blatant fangirls) or most likely, he seems more at home with writing male characters that whenever he does depict females at all they’re either stereotypical or are just males with enlarged, misplaced testicles.

Now if that’s the case, I suspect there’s a reason why having Dinah as Tim’s mother figure and aunt’s likelier to produce very different stories especially where she starts being more involved in Tim’s life to the point of micromanaging him. Not that he hasn’t interacted with her but him having an older female relative in Dinah’s going to differ from what Superman and Supergirl get.

(I get the feeling given his interactions with Dinah would’ve influenced the way he treats and regards women, Stephanie would become more of an alternative girl and that might ironically be the least misogynistic take on her.)

*Lois Lane, being the first Supergirl, did this to please and amuse Superman though I suspect it would’ve been too obsessive of her so it’s unsurprising they had to pre-empt Kara Zor-El instead.

The redesign nobody wanted

I sometimes get the impression that if Black Canary were Tim Drake’s aunt, there’s a profound chance that he’d not only become her sidekick but also strongly influence his views of women. Chances are, rather unexpectedly (at first), he’d seemed to be into Goths and Stephanie Brown would be redesigned to be one. But when his aunt dresses in black and fishnets, it’s inevitable Tim’s going to be drawn to Goths anyways.

Even if not all Goths always wear black or fishnets but when it’s so commonly associated (and also when Black Canary does both) that the real reason why Tim Drake’s attracted to Stephanie’s because she reminds him a lot of his aunt. Even her attitude resembles that of Auntie Dinah. Maybe not exactly but still enough to assume the influence. Besides relatives can sometimes influence the way some people interact with the opposite gender.

As well as their standards and expectations of. Whether if they’re pressured by their own peers and relatives or unconsciously influenced by them, some will inevitably be drawn to people much like their own family members. Though that’s also something some fans would have to brace.

The much needed character development

Barry as Red Riding Hood, Caitlin Snow as the big bad wolf

Like I said, should Caitlin go wolf on the Flash logically Barry’s going to be her Red Riding Hood and much of the plot’s based on whether if Barry can and will literally escape his ordeal at her hands or not. Same thing would happen if Barry becomes a stand in for Dante Alighieri. Instead of using speed feats to defeat baddies, he’d literally run away from every situation and much of it becomes a matter of life or death. If he’s too slow, then that’s his doom.

But it does feel emasculating in that Barry should beat up baddies. When you associate him with Dante and Red Riding Hood, you’re dealing with a red-clad escape artist in a perpetual do or die situation. He doesn’t want to kill people, his only other option’s to literally run away. He’d do a lot of evading and escaping, which is something that’s logically expected but barely ever attempted. He’s literally running for survival.

Red robins and black canaries

Tim Drake interacting with Dinah Lance’s one thing, her being his aunt’s another matter if because she’d not only make both Lady Shiva and Dana Winters redundant but also have Tim become her sidekick. If it sounds odd, I have a feeling she’d be more invested in looking after him than Dana ever would and go accompany him whether to teach him something or for his safety’s sake. It seems jarring because of her fashion sense.

But keep in mind there are people who have relatives who dress just as bad. That creepy Goth bloke could be somebody’s doting cousin. A scantily clad woman could also be somebody’s mum. The furry over there’s probably Toby’s sister. That’s the situation Dinah’s in. And that’s something fans might have to accept if because it happens in real life anyways.

(That might also shed new light on Tim’s attraction to Stephanie, if Dinah’s ever shown to have greatly influenced his view of women.) It also makes you wonder just how sexist the Robin stories really are in hindsight as Tim didn’t have a strong or active maternal figure, let alone his blood relative. Dinah Lance being his aunt deconstructs and resolves those problems, really.

Emasculated by tough female relatives

Like I said before last month, should anybody bother giving Dick Grayson a female cousin and turn Black Canary into Tim Drake’s grandaunt or something, that’ll not only turn people’s assumptions of them on their heads but also deconstruct other problems. It’s one thing that Black Canary’s got a maternal side, it’s another to have her as Tim Drake’s relative.

If because not only would she make both Dana Winters and Lady Shiva redundant but also have writers try to reconcile her fashion sense with her being Tim’s most reliable mother figure and her developing into a character who gets very overprotective of Tim as well as not taking kindly to his belligerence. It’s not that she hasn’t interacted with Tim before.

But her being Tim’s most reliable mother figure weirds them out. (If they’re fine with what BC wears, they should also be fine with her being Tim’s aunt with such a fashion sense.) I guess in this case, it’s a virgin-whore dichotomy that really needs to be shot in this case. There are scantily clad women who’re also doting or loving relatives. So should Black Canary.

Now as for Nightwing having a rich female businesswoman for a cousin, one it does help make his interactions with Batman less gay (same with Tim being Dinah’s grandnephew). But two, it also makes you wonder just how many female characters in Nightwing stories show up as love interests or fawning fangirls. But not female relatives who’d suffer him gladly.

That she’s a successful businesswoman emasculates him. But in that he hasn’t had a stable job/source of income as a model, bartender or police cop and he’d rely on her support if/when he can’t support himself (and neither can Batman sometimes). Never mind it happens all the time in other families where either a female relative or spouse’s the breadwinner.

That could happen but then again it can’t if because of how emasculating it is and that nobody wants to find out that Nightwing’s a deadbeat bloke himself or that Tim has a loud woman with bad fashion sense for a relative (in that situation, Tim practically turns into Jason Todd but funnier).

In Nightwing’s case, that’s having to deal with a female character who’ll never be his love interest or fawning admirer but one who’s supportive nonetheless. In Tim’s case, that’s having to reconcile Dinah’s fashion sense with her being Tim’s most trusted mother figure even if she gets too harsh on him.