Unpacking the Meaning of the Stargirl Ending

I recently finished Stargirl and the “twist” with the villains intent for the mind control device, as well as their intentions for the “Injustice Society” as a group for combating injustice in society. It’s kind of a fascinating thing, as presented, and well worth discussing I think.

The villains intend to use mind control to promote clean energy, tolerance for those of various ethnicities and sexual orientations, and universal healthcare, across a vast number of states in middle America. The images of their “coverage” literally show them turning the states Blue. The heroes end up stopping this in part due to the knowledge that about 1/4th of those effected will “fight” the changes and “die resisting” the mind control device.

It cannot be unintentional that this was an extended metaphor for liberalism sweeping across middle America. As someone who is politically far left myself, observing this plot was extremely interesting. The villains end up as caricatures, not of the actual political left, but of how the political right often perceives “liberal intellectual elites.” The villains are either intellectuals - doctors and scientists - wealthy philanthropists, or people in political power. They have a progressive agenda they are attempting to literally force onto a “Red States” to “Turn them Blue.”

The ethics of the situation were interesting to consider. Would it be wrong to use a hypothetical mind control device to promote positive change in peoples mindsets? Would the loss of those overly resistant to change make it ethically wrong to proceed? In the show, in the moment its revealed, it was a group of children who had to make the decision whether to fight it, or allow it to proceed. The adult characters seem to share the sentiment, but how much of that is based on the ongoing enmity and grudges between the Injustice Society and Justice Society survivors?

I cannot assume it’s accidental, so I have to wonder why the writers chose to frame the villains as these “left wing bogeymen,” and have the heroes standing up for the “right to be intolerant and stand against clean energy and universal healthcare.” The Icepick character presents it as a matter of numbers, “Kill a million to cure cancer forever,” but the free will vs overall human good and progress aspect is touched on less. Stripey comments that “people’s beliefs never hurt anyone,” or something to that effect, which was probably the stupidest and most naive thing any character said in the entirety of the show.

What seems to be an upbeat and straightforward superhero adventure ended up having one of the most philosophically and morally complex conflicts emerge at the end. Admittedly, it didn’t give it much room to breathe or really dive into it, in the show. But here, on the forums, we can do that.

Why did the writers decide to make the Injustice Society into a right-wing notion of left-wing bogeymen? Were the heroes really justified in stopping them? Putting aside the various unethical acts that pave the way for the development of the machine, are they really ethically in the wrong for risking the deaths of the 1/4th of people who would sooner die than accept positive changes that would better their lives and those of others around them, as well as future generations?

This is all of course an intellectual exercise for entertainment on a forum, so please take no personal offense if your own politics differ from those of the Injustice Society, or Stargirl, or any other fictional character.


That was certainly a very unexpected direction to go in, and boy is it a lot to unpack ! I’d certainly love to hear what the intention there was. I mean, the fact that the JSA all agreed that, yes, universal healthcare and basic human rights are good was a good sign. That’s something that definitely needed a good episode to really stare down the barrel of and address rather than just kinda glossing over it.


I completely agree, it could have warranted a full episode, or at least a good ten minutes of screen time, to wrestle with the pros and cons of allowing the plan to proceed. As you correctly noted, it was glossed over with a few throwaway lines, which is a shame, as it was easily the most unexpected and fascinating aspect of the show, for me.


The writers are leftists. It was self criticism at the left for focusing more on hating the right than actually doing good.

It assumes most viewers would be leftists. It is a call to quit blaming all problems on the other party and look in the mirror.

That’s a very interesting take, but I’m not sure where the source material suggests that interpretation. While it’s true the Injustice Society is motivated by “hate,” specifically the Icicle character blaming the corrupt actions of a large corporation for the death of his wife, the second part, the message of “quit blaming others and look in the mirror,” isn’t suggested by any aspect of the plot or dialogue of the show. Again, with a full episode to dive deeper into the implications of “the plan” it’s possible that could be an interpretation, but with what’s there, I don’t see it, personally.

Can you elaborate on what suggests that interpretation, for you? Or is that more based on assumptions of the writers’ motives than on the content presented in the show?


Alright, the best case is a compare and contrast with the Brainwaves. Sr. is always blaming everybody but himself for his problems in contrast to his son. Jr’s big mistake is the photo from episode four’s flashbacks. Many fans mostly blames Shiv for this, but Henry never tried to pass the blame to her. He always words it as his mistake, and he never even brings her up. Sr’s big mistakes are killing his wife and son. When he killed Mary he solely blamed Jordan, and still blames him years later. When he kills Henry he solely blames Shiv (how ironic). For him it is always another villain’s fault.

For smaller cases episode 1-2 has Star blaming Pat for her parents’ separation. Letting go is what make them become a team. This contrasts with Shiv blaming her dad for her social failings. The Icicle Sr. plot you mentioned. This next one is just speculation (with some evidence from fandome) Rick has an Us Vs. Them attitude that he lets go off in episode 13. I think this will lead to a plot about assigning blame with Grundy in season 2.

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This is a pretty great take, actually, and you’ve provided the supports for it, kudos. I didn’t see it there, focused on the premise of the mind control ray itself and the lack of proper reflection on it - which is still an issue - but taken in the larger context of the show, I can see how you could draw the conclusion you did. You’re correct, the adult “villain” characters do show patterns of shifting the blame for their actions onto others, consistently, and that could tie in with a theme of blaming others vs coping with your own misdeeds and flaws.

I’d argue it somewhat sidesteps the central question of the mind control machine’s “morality,” which again, definitely could have used more reflection by the characters involved in the decision of whether or not to allow it to go forward. Your perspective on the “meaning” and “message,” however, is better supported than I initially assumed. I don’t personally subscribe to it, but I can certainly acknowledge your thesis is well supported, so to speak. Nicely done.


I do hope the mind control is explored more in season 2. Shade and Eclipso being villains promises deep character reflection.

My job is very slow at times, so I often entertain myself by thinking about comics, movies, and TV. That is how I realized the difference between the Brainwaves.

I am hopeful Season 2 will lean more into the questions of greater good vs the methods to achieve it, free will vs destructive choices, and a few of the other interesting concepts Stargirl introduced but mostly brushed past. I am not banking on it, but I haven’t read the Stargirl comics, so I don’t know how far the show is straying from any source material or what to expect based on that.

I do think seeing Eclipso in a live action television format promises to be very interesting. It was a major “event villain” from the DC past, and I’m curious how a fledgling team of untrained superheroes will deal with what was a “setting level” threat in other incarnations.

But as to the original topic, I have to say it seems the JSA team should have weighed it more heavily. It’s very arguably that the good done by allowing the brainwashing to go through, a huge swath of the country removed from intolerance based on race and sexual orientation, and aligned towards clean energy and universal healthcare, could have done enough long term good to warrant the risk of the short term deaths of those resisting. It also might have given more meaning to those on both sides of the conflict who died up to that point, that their deaths can at least mean something, by enabling a better future.

This is, of course, a conversation the characters likely should have had in-fiction, but as a viewer, I can’t help but be curious if they did the right thing. I don’t see it as out of character, the actions taken, but it does paint the heroes as very reactionary and short sighted, in a sense.

I hadn’t expected the Injustice Society to end up as a different spin on The Authority - a group of super powered people more than willing to use their powers, and kill, to promote their vision of the greater good - and the JSA as the traditionalist “law abiding” superheroes standing in their way.

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JSA gets heavily into those themes with it being Stargirl (against it) vs Black Adam (for it) and Atom Smasher stuck in the middle.

You are looking at this from a consequentialist standpoint. Stargirl is a deontologist.

What bothers me is how often that DC goes to this “your goals are admirable, but because you use violence, I need to humiliate you and destroy all work you’ve accomplished that might help people” well. Ra’s al Ghul, sure, wants to rule the “better” world on the other side after murdering billions of people, with no evidence that he’ll do better, so he’s more an ancient Arab Jeff Bezos than a Nathan Myhrvold and his “we should plunge the Earth into nuclear winter to stop climate change” suggestions. But consider someone like Poison Ivy, who (1) is more or less a legitimately angry environmentalist, (2) generally only harms serious, unrepentant polluters, and (3) has serious, documented psychiatric issues, but because she’s threatening corporate profits, she needs to be literally beaten. But we keep getting these stories that tell us that we shouldn’t make the world better, because that’s what villains do.

But I feel like it was worse, in this instance, because there were no hints of the underlying plot in the series, other than maybe Icicle’s wife dying from toxic waste. So, there was no time to digest this twist, other than to have the heroes question themselves for a split second, before proceeding to beat up people who can seemingly be rehabilitated pretty easily.

It also brings up the question of why the Injustice Society went for such a bizarre plan. They’re spending a ton of money (real estate and equipment) basically standing on the weird Freemason backstory to (I believe) secede from the United States in the midst of causing mass death. Why do all that, when, clearly being authoritarians, they could’ve just brainwashed Capitol and White House, and worked their way down.

And there’s the uncomfortable angle about the story, too: Given that we’re been getting some serious, credible accusations against DC Entertainment, stories like this make me wonder if I’m supporting the bad guys, beyond just AT&T’s obvious drive to create a vertical monopoly. But that’s drifting off-topic.

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From my own interpretation, I think it is more of “yes, these are good ideas, but this isn’t the way we should do it”. When Beth reveals the ISA’s plan, Star says “wait, aren’t those good things?” She agrees that what they want are good changes, but she doesn’t agree with killing people because those people disagree. In real life, it’s okay to not always have the same opinions as others, or maybe there can be alternative ways to make a change. Some people will even say “let’s agree to just disagree”. Maybe the JSA agreed that these changes should happen, but maybe mind control and killing isn’t the way the changes should be implemented? Maybe they thought that the companies and people in charge of those should be the ones to develop ways to make those changes, but those processes won’t be as easy as we would like them to be. Politics and social issues are never easy and there are many factors that make these issues complicated. Look at Batman for example (I know this is Stargirl but this is an example) Batman’s kill rule vs. Red Hood’s kill rule. This is controversial in terms of how it reflects the death penalty topic, kill the bad guys vs. rehabilitate them. This issue is complicated and people will have their own views on it. They will always be different. I think with Stargirl they present the idea of “should we kill those who disagree with us? Should we brainwash people to agree with our agenda?” Obviously in real life killing people over opinions is wrong, and I think that’s the idea here. I don’t want to get too much into politics, cause I’m not ready to open up a can of warms that I’m not ready for, but hopefully people can agree that brainwashing and killing is not the way to handle disagreements, regardless of left or right beliefs. It could be that the ISA represent people who are extremists, or those that aren’t willing to have an open mind when these discussions happen (I know quite a few of them), while the JSA represent the ones who like the ideas, or are willing to discuss, but they understand that not everyone will view the same way and they are okay with that. This is my own interpretation though.

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I don’t think the character of Stargirl knows that term as ethics isn’t part of the typical public high school curriculum, and more likely something she would learn at a college level, but I agree you’re correctly describing what I’m presenting and the character’s views. I am looking at it as a consequentialist, as was the Injustice Society, Stargirl is basing her actions on the inherent morality of the action itself without regarding to consequences.

Your interpretation is certainly sound, although the “brainwashing” notion is ethically murkier than the “death penalty” question that Batman’s “rule” provides an analog for. The brainwashing depicted in Stargirl is science fantasy. Real world manipulation and conditioning is far more ethically hard to define and judge as “wrong.”

Short of actual CIA style capture and torture, all real world persuasion is a form of mind control, and conditioning. Whether it’s a political advertisement, statements made in a debate, a religion’s after school program, or a series of principles presented in entertainment media, anything that conditions someone to a certain viewpoint can be seen as a form of “mind control.” Neurologically speaking, we act on emotion and conditioning and provide after the fact rationalizations which create the illusion of “making a choice.” Perhaps ironically, the concept of choice is incredibly valuable to us. We are extremely responsive to many forms of conditioning, up until someone tells us that we are being conditioned.

The reality is, external factors condition us to associate certain things with pleasure and others with displeasure, pain or trauma. There is no “intellectual satisfaction” separate from emotional and chemical satisfaction, because when we refer to intellectual satisfaction we’re really talking about the emotional and chemical high that comes from having our intellects validated - the rush of “being right.”

As we discover the patterns of what consistently gives us the emotional and chemical high, and what consistently provides the emotional and chemical low, as language-based thinkers, we develop rationalizations as to why our particular addiction is either intellectually sound, ethically sound, or backed up by a faith in a higher power such as God or a nation’s constitution, and therefore we distance ourselves from the idea that it’s nothing but a form of addiction and revulsion - the drugs we are addicted to, and the traumas we flee from.

With this neurological understanding, we’re left with much more nebulous definitions for “mind control,” in the real world. The one clear takeaway is that if you call something mind control, or if you tell people “we are working to change your minds,” they are resistant to it, because the notion of autonomy is so valued by most people, and enforced heavily in western culture. Despite this, in reality when we share what we feel are positive ethical views in a way intended to persuade, we are attempting to re-condition others who do not share our views (or we are seeking personal validation from an echo chamber, but let’s assume the former to keep the discussion going).

Media seeking to normalize and and promote positive, progressive concepts such as racial tolerance, tolerance for various sexual orientations and gender identities, concern for the environment and notions of universal healthcare, are certainly acting altruistically. They are also engaging in the act of conditioning - the most effective form of real world mind control, outside of actual imprisonment. Media ‘teaching’ us to be better people in effect are the real world ‘mind control ray,’ albeit without the consequences of death for those who resist. They simply consume a narrower spectrum of media, or when they do step outside of their comfort zone, they do so with an approach of cynicism and skepticism.

People don’t want to change. They don’t even want to be right. They want to already be right. They want outside voices and facts to confirm that they way they are living, right now, the things they believe in, right now, are correct and valid. They want validation and reinforcement. If being “objectively right” requires personal change, they simply reject that set of facts and seek out a different set of facts that reinforces their current paradigm and way of living.

So yes, we are all “resistant” to the mind control ray - when we know its aimed at us, and when it happens to conflict with what we already think (and more importantly, feel).

To add to the former point, the thing that breaks up the pattern of skepticism and cynicism to change is trauma. The “1/4 who will die resisting” could be better analogous to those who require traumatic experience to change deeply set views. The ‘trauma’ can be anything emotionally impactful enough to break through deeply set conditioning and re-condition a person.

An experience of the trauma of jail time could break a pattern of criminal behavior (though it would more likely reinforce it due to the archaic model of the correctional system, but let’s leave the example to continue the conversation). A personal connection that causes development of empathy for someone who is of a different race or sexual orientation could break through the conditioning of bigotry and intolerance. Such a connection, if not effected in one’s personal life, could indeed come from connecting with a fictional character in a piece of media.

This is part of why representation in media is so important. It is a conditioning tool, and a valuable one, to teach - or condition - empathy for those that someone might never be exposed to in their personal life. Seeing the world beyond the limited spectrum of personal experience can broaden ones views and condition a more positive outlook, certainly.

This is a form of “mind control” we should all be proud of. So, to close on this, “mind control” is much less clear cut than the already complex question of capital punishment, ie the Batman no killing rule.

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People will subconsciously follow an ethics code whether they know it or not. For example you are either a determinist or a Libertarian (no correlation to the political term). That does not mean you know what either are, but you are one. Dad is a consequentialist Libertarian. He knows what neither of these words mean, but he is one. Mom is a virtue ethicist, but she does know what it means.

I agree with you entirely on this - I was actually trying to make a joke, by pointing out that Courtney doesn’t know the term because she is in high school, but humor conveys poorly in text. I think you’re 100% right on, actually.

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