The first time I was watching Legend of Korra Book One I was really thrilled. A female, muscular, taller probably kick-ass avatar — yeah that’s cool! Sign me up!
That was then.
Book One had a lot going for it but the mettle to the crucial spine of the series was suffering a dry spell in creative development and persistence in that development. I am not going to compare this series to Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend Of Aang but I know some points I should. In ATLA there were vast paces to character growth and really beautiful martial arts, accompanied with great themes and not to mention even distinctive only one episode characters. ALOK lacks all of these — ALOT. Yes, it is fun. Yes I loved it in the series premier when Korra was so strong that she grabbbed a firebender and threw him into a shop window. Yes, I loved that she engaged with her love interest from the start. It made sense for young adults to be a bit more upfront about feelings at times. What I did know is that that is all this series was going to amount to.
There are so many flaws in the character of Korra. Yes, I watch the series. Yes, it has some good points and has some continuity but it lacks momentum and it lacks ideas. It has some good originality I will give it that. But it horribly suffers in execution not to mention that Korra is, to some extents, a misogynistic character. She was supposed to be the opposite of Aang that means she was to be more physically inclined than Aang but as Aang I thought that she would, by the end of the penultimate book, learn to be more of a spiritual person. In fact, all of her major challenges and enemies literally challenged her spirit. Her avatar spirit, her own Korra spirit and all that lay between it. I thought she would be matured by now. Instead, she has reverted back to a silly, non-wise, elitist Korra of Book One. Yes, while it may be Book Three Korra has shed the intensity and her wide level of thinking that she acquired in Book Two. Basically, she is being masqueraded as a beautiful muscular air-head. Her physicality is so focused on that I feel it getting on my nerves. A man or woman does not need to have social ideal body types to face sexism. Korra may be modeled after female wrestler types with a spiritual purpose but she is like wrestlers only a visual performance as one critique in Tumblr had pointed out.
Not to mention that Season Three is a pile of messed up garbage in terms of plot execution and even a ready base for the antagonist who has been denatured into just the stereotype mustached villain of old. After Season Two I was expecting more solid bodied and spiritual discourses in the series. Instead we got cheap villains who have a very weak goal and not to mention they are already labelled by fans as terrorists even before they did much because that is how freaking cliched this season is. Amon made you think and so did Unalaq. The Red Lotus have no strength and even their ideology has feels like a child’s endgame. Not to mention naming Zaheer the antagonist an Middle Eastern Arabic and pretty much a Muslim name is very, VERY RACIST.
His other teammates names are also rooted in other religions that are not necessarily Eastern but half Asian or Central Asian origins. They are far more exoticized than the other characters. This Red Lotus wants anarchy. They believe that the White Lotus are fools (to a large extent they are right) for becoming mercenaries rather than do what their original creed and code was. They hate the way some of the leaders run things and mentions even corrupt leaders such as the Earth Queen Hyou-Ting and President of Republic City Raiko who have truthfully failed their citizens. They want to assassinate them. Korra at first tries reasoning with Zaheer saying that he has spirituality and that as a new Airbender he can really help the world. However, Zaheer is adamant. Korra gives up too easily. Zaheer quotes one line by Guru Lahima who is a guy that Zaheer really liked and was an Airbender too and she just shuts up. Freezes actually. I mean, she doesn’t even try. She has seen the hierarchical destruction of Ba Sing Se by the Earth Queen and yet she doesn’t even figure that because of such stern cases of oppression Zaheer may have become attuned to a society without systems. She may be the avatar but she hasn’t seen Ba Sing Se before and known its actual socio-cultural climate. Zaheer does ironically have more experience. Neither did Mako and Boilin who realised, amidst the slums and poverty, that their father may have left the city due to the structured chaos and inequality present in its “rings” like society. Where the upper ring holds the Queen’s court and is surrounded by opulence, by triviality and corruption where food is plenty and not shared with the citizens (in fact when they meet their cousin hawking food it is distinct due to its spoiled and un-fresh character; the food is rotten. French Revolution anyone?). So by trivializing this scene, making it only a comedy and no social conscionability held you are actually making fun of democracy and of people’s right to eat. And ALOK is supposed to be a children’s show originally? It fails as a children’s show and it thinks that young adults are a bunch of dummies smitten only to graphically exoticism and visual pornography. It is low and very patronizing to think that about your viewers especially their fandom and their interests has been catalyst to many decisions you made. So, 1984 defined: television being a cataract and vibe to propagandist modes to even influence in a show that is meant to persevere righteousness and social balance? Yes ALOK becomes like Big Brother silencing the masses to ever question teaching children that questioning or even finding a middle ground between two oppositions is socially and even ethically wrong? Dubbing any dissenters as “terrorists” and then when seeing that fan reaction to the Red Lotus was so favourable that you have Zaheer perform assassination and make hostages out of innocent Airbenders. It feels they are forcing him to be very orthodox old age random villain stuff. They are coercing us to hate Zaheer more potently than we should. It feels very like mechanically done. I have only disinterest in him. The guy is written boringly.
So, anarchy is that? Does even an amount or paucity of research go into ALOK? I use paucity because the research of this topic feels non-existent. The villain, reduced to some bad gestures, is an archetype that in a semi-postmodernist era of television or even on a postmodernist scale that most innovative writers and shows are attempting to debunk, to leave leaving that cocoon and just attempting to transport and do a small journey if necessary. Neither does Zaheer or any of his teammates have this. Unfortunately, neither does Korra. Her narrative is very feminine oriented. Wanna know how? Aang has a chance of growing and thus his growth getting stunted is a very chauvinistic philosophy if it’s only applied to males. Thankfully, Thank God literally, that they made characters like Toph who also grown a lot in the series. But yes in ATLA the major characters growing were mostly male. Here there is a female narrative of losing already established power. Which in itself is not misogynistic but I fear that it has a misogynistic and misandrist portrayal. Korra is always defined as an avatar. Unlike Aang who is a person other than an avatar Korra can only ever be an avatar. It feels suffocating that Korra is always declaring that she is an avatar in the lineage of bending and that she can do this and she can do that. Best part of Aang was that he was physically a terrible avatar, (I think Korra may have a larger height than Aang in her full mid 40s adult self like Kiyoshi) as in aside airbending he sucked at other types of bending which was a promising concept. Korra did make really marvelous progress in bending in that she learned very early energy bending and then spirit bending which Aang did not most probably know. But Aang had different aspects to him as a person; he grew up as a person and also as the avatar. Korra’s growth is stunted and in a orthodox, sexualized, male-gaze oriented feminine way she is only trying to save the little shards of avatar-ness that she possesses that makes no sense.
Korra is reluctant to grow beyond “avatar-ness” in fact she bases her entire existence only to that role alone and that is a very reductionist and sexist way of reading a woman. Women are not only titles or only vessels for power; for God’s sake Korra is treated as that. Very archaic and arcane methodology of viewing women is established to formulate her. It is pitiful that a strong female character protagonist is being homogenized into nothing but muscle and athlete pornography. Not to exclude that Asami, the other female character in the show, and a nonbender is totally sexualized. I do not remember Sokka meeting such treatment nor was he reduced to a bimbo in ATLA. In fact, Sokka was a very strong character. They are only scratching Asami on the surface of her inventiveness, technical and technological knowledge and dexterity to provide creative solutions. I love her unwavering loyalty to her friends and her ability to not be a begrudged youth or scorned women but these narratives are hardly explored because Asami is always a frivolous depiction of some Fire Nation beauty (it seems she has Fire Nation roots as both Sokka and Katara were Water Tribe Warriors, my bro always called Sokka a Water Warrior). None of other things about Asami is shown. Not to mention that Sokka is a very humane and human character who learns to be an able warrior for his people and the cause; he proves the essential need of nonbenders as much as Ty-Lee and Mei, and Suki had shown in the first show as they have different methods and valuable tactics of fighting. Asami is just stereotyped as the beauty and mitigated as the forlorn princess of a once rich corporation; add more layers and you make her Blanche from A Streetcar named Desire and have her go insane in the end. Not to mention in Season Two she appropriated a Civil War in a nonchalant business tone on her corporation getting saved (sound familiar, isn’t this what corporations are criticised for aren’t they?). This transaction way of looking at war and not caring about lives is a problem of the modern age and instead of compassion and love that is displayed by Sokka, Asami acts as ruthless as Amon in what she thinks is delivering justice. A friend even mentions that Asami must relegate her “Oh, I am daughter of a rich father” mentality and go on with her life. She is not merely future industries heir she is her own person and can make her own judgments. If she even scraps up the company to build another she can if she feels her father has already tainted the principalities it use to first employ. This show focuses too much on blood and secular lineages that have no bearing and only builds up the status quo of inequality and malformed individuality, and individual collective.
Not to mention that Boilin and Mako too have no chance of growing besides chauvinist archetypes of The Casanova and The Fool. A fan had mentioned that Boilin is too reduced as a comic relief and that it makes no sense to do so and I totally agree. You already have Varrick as a comic relief and the pet Pabu you don’t need to make a main character constantly be a comic relief. Boilin singularity is that he is The Fool and he played this card even in Season Three. In Season Two he reconciled with an abusive girlfriend without even critiquing that her possessiveness and superiority complex is neither charming nor helping her as a person. Boilin is always falling in love and rarely having fun in his love affairs. Mako on the other hand is known only as a dating agent, like a detergent. His singularity is that he is Korra’s boyfriend or Asami’s one time boyfriend and love interest. Frankly, he is only known to be The Casanova. Such misandrist portrayal of a young, sensitive man is highly crap. Like really sexist. Mako clearly has his own dimensions too. The only title graduation he had is being with police and becoming detective. I was like what about his personal journey? Doesn’t he have other goals? Katara did and so did Sokka. Boilin got some time as Nuptuk and that was important but Mako hardly does anything by himself. We see him doing that in Season Two a bit investigating Verrick but he hardly keeps it up when he just ups and down kisses Asami. So basically this guy can only think with his dick? It is true I like MaKorra and that I really want them to be together but this is just plain ridiculous! Why are Mako and Boilin so silly? So completely non-growing? All these writings on them are truly very limited.
I digressed with normal critique to further extrapolate the banality of Season Three. Korra is still a muscle-head, preferring to always take physical action rather than sorting out things in a non-linear holistic way that challenges her character and even her physicality. This is what Season Two exemplified that mere muscles alone cannot defeat spirits as she even lost in avatar state enabled. Season Three started with such promise of having her fight both physically and spiritually, mentally even because the Air Nation is not going to be rebuilt on brute force alone it needs ingenuity and also a large amount of spirit and dedication to do so. Korra must also attune to herself as having no avatar state which is very beautifully challenging. It always introspection and an innovative that even rivals and surpasses Aang’s progress. Instead Korra bemoans like a drama queen whore left, right and center of having no avatar state and skillfully dismissing time to ruminate and also gain referential or even observation-based knowledge about the world. In her ordinariness now she can better communicate with the people and feel what they feel. None of this connection is shown. Korra immediately faces physical dangers that she can somewhat overpower. Her only physical challenge is that she had to learn metal bending (and chastise Mako for hurrying her as a fugitive escaped because she was still a noob at it which doesn’t add much really). Zaheer and the others are so scatterbrained that they hardly pose as credible foes. Like Wile Coyote they make randomized, nonsense violent gestures without much speculation at what the hell they are doing. For a pseudo-wise guy Zaheer surely is an ignoramus and his girlfriend P’Li, his comrades Ming-Hua and Ghazan are equally ignoramus with him. Apparently I got this from Korraspirit in tumblr but guru Lahima’s quote was this:
I was once asked what it means to enter the void. I will tell you. An airbender may meditate for a hundred years trying to detach herself from the world, but she cannot do it. Humans cherish human life, and by that they are bound to this world. The only way to abandon the world is to abandon one’s humanity. New growth cannot exist without first the destruction of the old. The void is found in the sowing of death. From that death springs life on the wind.
I do not understand how he quotes in brief and also have a girlfriend and just think that disorder is order when Lahima just does not care about humanity in general. Lahima is like a very orthodox or fanatical ascetic who is probably angry at something and mouthing that off. It makes no sense to even think he presupposes anarchy because anarchy itself is so human and he doesn’t care about this and does Zaheer even understand this. It is just very perplexing that Zaheer will just say one line of this to Korra (which I emboldened) and have Korra, even a layman in Lahima studies, not even question that an air nomad may not have meant such a thing as they are very centered and spiritual people like the Water Tribe (more corporeal clans are Earth and Fire in this universe from my understanding). And that maybe he means at the end of one’s life one has to shed his or her humanity as in his human skin but they are still human spirits as Iroh. Another study may show that Lahima may have been upset living as an Air Nomad and must have become a bit angry at the cloistered way many air nomads lived and he felt that it rejected humanity in many ways because many criticise asceticism, its severity as deprivation so he could have just been reflecting on that. Korra has no knowledge of both present or past histories of socio-cultural conduct so she cannot even evaluate the statement Zaheer made. It is a shame really that Korra cannot even ask Tenzin or someone close to him that why an airbender would say this as an airbender has inspired Zaheer and that says a lot. No, that narrative is excluded too. It feels painfully like a betrayal when the inventors of a show presume that we are so dumb to just swallow any crap they give. It feels like we are the daft emperor who are given “clothes” and wear the masterpiece of nothingness and expose raw idiocy. I think the show creators take us for that. It makes no sense. Any of it. A friend and I agreed that this the worst season of Avatar ever both combining ALOK and ATLA and that it spews out stupidity is quite apparent. The weakening of characters and story is a travesty to a potential richness this story has.
I still watch it hoping for changes and just watching. I am not so interested in it anymore. I am just curious on how this train wreck will end. I think the show cannot write or handle female protagonists and is just waiting for this ALOK to end so that they can get a guy avatar to come back. After all these narratives are so chauvinistically handled that in this day and age you feel insulted to see that your personhood regardless you are a man or woman has become reduced to this crap. They can make another female avatar who is fire or earth based I actually want to see them do that. Make the next avatar a girl too and that would be interesting and if they can make it multidimensional like ATLA it would be great. But then again these cultural politics have little merit to discuss things. They just want to do stuff that hardly makes sense or even culturally, psychologically, sociologically and individually satisfying or engaging. They want to marry cliches, overused stereotypes and go along with whatever garbage handed to them to preserve status quo. To preserve totalitarian ideologies and do stuff that makes no sense.
ALOK has bombed this season. They want to make it out alive they must rethink and add layers to a potentially rich story.