*Disclaimer: The article contains spoilers from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.*
As two fanatics of sci-fi and fantasy everything, it's no surprise from our last collaboration on Avatar: The Last Airbender that we would have a few points to bring up from the sequel series, The Legend of Korra. In this new setting, the audience is introduced to a more modern age, with technology and social systems equivalent to the early 20th century. The Legend of Korra diverges from the epic fantasy format of the previous series to have smaller, more complex season-long plot arcs. The Legend of Korra expands the Avatar universe in a number of ways, including the diversity of the characters. We decided to come up with a few points that we thought were the most impactful factors of the series.
(Image via Flickr)
The Diversity of Women
In most children's series that have a lot of action, there are mainly male characters that are the lead roles with few, if at all, significant female roles who are not a supporting role. Korra, the main character of the series, is both a woman and a person of color. In fact, The Water Tribe, where Korra is from, is based on the Inuit people. (although her race is never explicitly said). Katara, a recurring figure in the series, also appeared in The Last Airbender. In addition to a female of color as the main character, the other female supporting roles were also diverse. There was also a wide ranges of ages among the characters. Tenzin’s wife, Pema, mainly acts as the caregiver for his children in the first two seasons, being the more maternal figure. Other characters such a Lin Beifong played captivating roles that are usually given to male characters. But instead of making Lin tough and rough with no explanation, there was an episode where she met up again with her mother, Toph, and expressed her feelings of resentment towards her for things that happened during Lin’s childhood. The various ages showed great examples of generations of women working together towards a common goal.
The Series Finale
The series finale of The Legend of Korra may have been the icing on the cake for this series. Korra had an ongoing off and on again relationship with Mako, one of the supporting characters. But the creators of the series also gave light to relations between Korra and Asami, especially in the fourth and final series. When Korra was still suffering from stress-triggers from her battle with season three villain, Zaheer, Asami was the only person from what Bolin coined as “Team Avatar,” that Korra kept in contact with. But it wasn’t until the final episode of the series (and later confirmed by the creators) when Korra and Asami were seen gazing into each other’s eyes that their romantic feelings were validated. To many fans’ surprise, the background music was the same music that played when Aang and Katara kissed during the finale. The show made strides by showing an even more diverse cast, this time in the sense of sexuality, by showing not one, but two bisexual characters in a T.V. show. Korra and Asami had a romantic relationship with Mako, but they both ended up being together.
(Image via Polygon.com)
More Modern age, More Modern Issues
Considering the timing of the release of the series (2012), the world and its social forms were rapidly changing, especially through the means of social media. Unlike the characters from the first series, the main characters are much older, and thus, are faced with different, more mature, challenges. Korra was recovering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the beginning of season four after Zaheer nearly killed her in battle, which temporarily left her in a wheelchair. She ran away from home after trying to recover physically. However, she was still traumatized, often having flashbacks from that very day. The introduction of mental disorders in a children’s series was something we very much appreciated seeing.
More Nuanced Villains
In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Ozai is not exactly a complicated character, and he’s a very familiar fantasy type -- evil emperor out to conquer the world. In The Legend of Korra, the villains often have a point, they just tend to take their philosophies too far or insist that the ends justify the means. Amon in season one is fighting on behalf of a marginalized group, the non-benders. In season two, Korra ultimately decides that her villainous uncle Unalaq might have some valid points about the importance of the spirit world, and she ends up opening the gates between the worlds. Zaheer in season three might be a radical anarchist, but he’s also a fully-rounded character in a loving relationship with his co-revolutionary P’Li; also, it’s not hard to agree with him that the Queen of the Earth Nation is corrupt. Kuvira starts out as an ally in season three, but her desire to impose order leads her to becoming the season four villain.
The animation in Avatar: The Last Airbender wasn’t bad, but oh my goodness is Legend of Korra beautiful! There’s so many simply stunning scenes. The swamp in season four? Republic City? Ba-Sing-Se? The South Pole? It’s impossible to choose a favorite.
(Image via Imgur)
The Characters of the Last Show Weren’t Perfect
This is a controversial one. Some people hate the idea of Avatar: The Last Airbender’s lead characters becoming flawed adults, but it just feels so honest. Look at Toph. In Legend of Korra, her laissez-faire parenting style ends up giving her youngest daughter a license to get in trouble and leaves her oldest with all sorts of baggage. But doesn’t that feel true to Toph’s character? Her parents are so strict, that when she has her own kids, she goes too far in the opposite direction. And doesn’t it make sense that Aang would be so overjoyed to have a child who’s an airbender that the other children would end up feeling neglected? And that Tenzin would be left feeling like he’s got to live up to his father’s legacy and carry on the last of Airbending culture? In this way, Legend of Korra continues to bring nuance to its storylines and characterizations, avoiding the easy paths.
(Image via Imgur)
As there are many other children’s series are starting to break traditional roles and settings, we thought it would serve The Legend of Korra justice to bring out some of its major points. What were your favorite things about watching The Legend of Korra? Let us know by commenting below!