Are they? I looked at their twitter and the tweets I translated seem pretty average haha. They don’t seem really upset imo. Although I don’t speak Portuguese so.
They’re free to ask about it.
Are they? I looked at their twitter and the tweets I translated seem pretty average haha. They don’t seem really upset imo. Although I don’t speak Portuguese so.
They’re free to ask about it.
bro there’s like 14 posts on this inactive blog, so #1, chill. “huge blog” lmao.
#2, because shitty media deserves to be critiqued and discussed in a public space to bring attention to these problematic elements that often run through not only the show but media at large.
if everyone just held their tongue, shit would never change and we’d be stuck with more and more of the same crap.
just as people voice their positive views on things, people voice their negative ones too
basic 101 media critique etcetc
Ok I accidently found myself in a tag and its got me heated.
Lok compared to atla is just horrible.
Lok by itself is a bad show.
I personally dislike bryke because I feel as if they do more harm than good in making this show.
I feel as if bryke thinks they are being “progressive” yet they make no attempt to actually push the boundaries of the staquo.
Yes korra being brown and being a girl as the main character is a BIG DEAL.
but thats where the progress ends.
She is pigeon holed in her role and takes up a caracatured personality (oh! Mako truu ruvv!!! and I will never be a spiritual person BREAK EVERYTHING).
its exausting. Yea one could say the writers don’t owe the fans anything. But it is the writers responsibility on how they influence our society via childrens programs. They hold a tremendous amount of power just on the fact that nick publishes them. ill be damned if they choose to neglect it in favor of making bullshit.
And its super frustratin because we FINALLY have a WoC to be able to look up to (for the newest gen. In mainstream media) but she is so poorly written and her actual presence pushed aside so much that it no longer her show (ie. Shows name is ‘Legend of Korra’) and her exsitence becomes almost pointless.
It is just hard to swallow the bullshit bryke keeps feeding us for “good writing”. yea ok they say they are dropping the romance (even tho odds are makorra is endgame) they are hiring new writers. I see they are taking steps to develop, but based on their noteriety I doubt they will take it further than they doing already.
So much wasted potential.
The politics, the theme of opression, revolution etc etc could have at least been explained or something and all we got was typical bullshit of sports action and romance it makes me fucking sick.
I want to cry. I really do at least the bryke-stans can do is fucking aknowlege that bryke has a major responsibility with our culture as Americans; minorities, majorities, people of color and all that jazz.
No fucking pressure or anything.
someone just asked “if the benders and nonbenders were getting along before legend of korra, what made them not get along now”
bryan says: it’s a very large world out there, what made you think they were getting along in the first place? it was republic city, with benders as the ruling class, with the power, but they’re still the minority; it’s like china where there’s a minority in power [something else about China] the melting pot situation where you have people from all over the world, all kinds of benders and nonbenders, moving to the same place made people realize that it’s not about fire vs. water or earth vs. air… but some nonbenders felt that they were doing all the hard dirty work and [missed the rest]
presented without comment
Whoa whoa whoa, wait a second. Did he just say that non-bender oppression exists and it actually WORSE than we thought it was? Wow, what an amazing revelation that would have been when the equalists were aCTUALLY RELEVENT! And they thought it would be a good idea to just have our protagonists fight for the status quo without a, “Wow, thems common non-benders sure have it bad. We should probably do something about that.”
So… can we talk for a moment about this, fandom?
Sooooooo. Am I the only one who was really really disturbed by this scene? Like, here’s Mako threatening an equalist mook with a FIST FULL OF FIRE, and this guy, he doesn’t have his hood on, he has a face and everything, and he’s scared and has no defenses against this firebender and he doesn’t even have anything to do with what’s bothering this firebender and he’s about to get his face burned off anyway. Like this is EXACTLY what he feared and that’s why he’s an equalist mook in the first place.
This is a clear example of why the equalists exist but a) the show didn’t comment on it in that context at the moment (more on this later) and b) from what I’ve seen, the fandom was too blinded by shipping love/hate to analyze the moment. Unless I’ve completely missed the huge discussion we should be having about it, which is TOTALLY POSSIBLE because I’m ancient by fan standards and actually have a life/husband/kid/work/dog/hobbies/friends that I need to attend to so the blink-and-you-miss-it pace of tumblr is just too much sometimes.
ANYWAY. I just wanted to comment on this scene and how Mako is, let’s be honest, abusing his power here. Imagine if you were a nonbender, and you live in a world where anyone could be a bender and you wouldn’t know it right up until the moment they decide to earthbend you into a wall or bloodbend you or burn you. It’s like that thing some girls are taught, that all men are potential rapists (not talking about the truth or validity of that, just that it is A THING); you live in a world where anyone could be a bender and hurt you in ways that you just can’t prepare for. Knives and guns in the Real World are scary, but no one is born with a knife or a gun in their hand, and EVEN THEN it’s definitely a weapon that can maybe possibly be defended against. What are you going to do if an earthbender decides to open the ground under you and swallow you up? How do you defend against a flamethrower that you can’t see coming? And this usage of power just comes so easily to Mako that he doesn’t even seem to think about it. (And this is NOT character hate, it’s just an example. Sorry Mako, you just kept popping up on my dash; it is worth noting that Korra does this shit, too, especially in the first episodes, like with the Equalist rabble-rouser on the corner with his megaphone.) All the benders in the show seem to do this (except maybe Tenzin because he’s a monk and the airbenders seemed to realize that with their power came the responsibility to not use it against other creatures, as evidenced by Aang’s reluctance to kill and vegetarianism, etc). Piss off the wrong person and you’re subject to demigod powers, not just an angry dude with a knife.
(As an aside, this was one of the things that made Zuko and Iroh so interesting in season two. They couldn’t use their bending in public. They had to hide and it really made for interesting interactions. This is also one of the reasons why Zuko rules so much as a character; yeah, he’s not the greatest firebender in the world, but he learned some serious combat skills to make up for it.)
Back to the point, the scene in question up there just made me sick to my stomach. The guy’s just this guy, you know? Yeah, he’s on the side of the antagonist, but that doesn’t make him evil or bad, and he’s about to get face-melted by an angry teenager and he’s scared and helpless. And fire hurts. Recovering from burns is awful. It ooks me out in ways I can’t explain that the protagonists are shown in this manner. I’m hoping the show, in the next season, goes into this further. There are moments in season one that hint that this might be a possible direction for the series. They aren’t commented on in the context of the show (again, this scene, korra bullying the equalist dude, raiding the equalist training camp and really fucking those people up REALLY BADLY), but if Korra’s bending is taken in the finale, I would be happy to see this angle explored. I’m hoping someone else has better thoughts on this than me, because I’m scattered and need to get back to work, and also I wrote this post while eating white queso nachos and so yeah now i have to clean my keyboard.
So that’s my word-vomit about a children’s cartoon. Thoughts? Gifs? Angry anonymous asks?
finally watched legend of korra
bryke doesnt respect their female characters at all. they dont know how to write women as multi-dimensional human beings because they are sexist pigs and anybody who wants to kiss their ass can just go right the fuck ahead.
i expect a lot more than this horse shit. WE ALL SHOULD. asami is a fucking queen who stuck around the krew to help her friends. the idea that she’d go running back to the guy who cheated on her and broke her heart says a lot about what bryke thinks goes on in the heads of young women- nothing.
like if youre not disappointed in this show at all, i don’t know how to talk to you. more or less im just impressed with your ability to completely turn off the part of your brain that gives a shit.
So, in honor of my 200th follower, I’m going to reveal who I am and reblog my original Mako critique here.
I’m Mortrialus of mortrialus.tumblr.com. This is my own personal essay on why mako;
There is a lot of Mako hate going on, and frankly I’ve been a part of it. I tend to be really sarcastic, and snarky about these things and that isn’t called for or a particularly good way get my point across so I’m going to organize my thoughts in a serious, non-inflammatory post to explain why this character is seriously, seriously bothering me right now. I’m a nonshipper. I don’t really ship in any show, including Korra, so that alone isn’t my issue. I’ll say it, while I don’t like Mako as a person or as a character; he isn’t some complete monster and card carrying villain who kicks puppies for breakfast. He doesn’t need to be irredeemably evil to be unlikable. His character’s problems run much deeper and I’m going to break down why his character bothers me in chronological order as each event occurs. Strap in folks, this is going to be a long one.
Just a bit of background; I didn’t watch Avatar the Last Airbender until after Legend of Korra came out. I didn’t have cable when it originally aired and when I finally did have access to cable and the internet and was always hearing about it, I never gave it a chance. I suppose that was for a variety of reasons; I love anime, but I tend to be really cautious about American Anime styled shows. I find that the art style often tends to be forced and the use of “super deformed” gags tends to rub me the wrong way.
However, I started hearing news about the Legend of Korra pop up and when I saw the main character, I was immediately intrigued. She seemed so unique compared to what we usually see from female characters in cartoons, and female main characters in action shows are almost unheard of. I gave the show a chance and to my surprise, I really liked it. I absolutely loved the first four episodes. I loved Korra as a main character. I loved the setting. I loved how all the characters were introduced and where it looked like they were developing. I loved Amon and the Equalists and how they could be human, morally ambiguous villains, and how they paralleled the real life communist revolution in Russia. I thought this was a show that truly had potential to be one of my all time favorites. It was smart, it was funny, it was inventive and the characters, art and animation all looked great. How much did I love it? I went back and marathoned the entire three seasons of Avatar: the Last Airbender, and I loved that series so much I immediately went and bought the DVD sets.
When Mako was introduced, I wasn’t too keen on him right away. I wasn’t a fan of his stoic, tsundere type character. Honestly I thought he was a bit dull, but I didn’t feel he particularly detracted from the show. I did think there were a lot of ways he could be fleshed out and developed. They mentioned his history as a gang member, and that could easily create a great arc based on the repercussions that could have had all on its own. I was disappointed with the way his back story was told, however. I mean just having him tell the audience isn’t as emotionally gripping as it could have been, and this is a real problem from a storytelling standpoint. If you don’t show me it, I don’t really believe it and it doesn’t make Mako more sympathetic.
One of my first issues with Mako is during his introduction. He is immediately insulting and dismissive of Korra, calling her a “stupid fan girl” or some variant. Now, I can buy that this is a common inconvenience that Bolin regularly does. However, he only once starts giving her respect once he finds out she’s the Avatar. A lot of people have talked about this scene and how it sets up Mako as a gold digger, intentionally or not. It gives the impression that this guy literally only gives her respect because of her status.
However, everything changed once Episode 5 aired. Immediately, I was off put by it. The intro states that “Mako and Korra have been crushing on each other since they met.” This came as a shock to me. Mako and Korra had some cute, ship tease moments in the past; falling asleep on each other, and staring longingly out the window; nothing was really shown that Mako actually returned Korra’s romantic affections. The episode actually starts contradicting the introduction. Bolin gives Korra a goofy, love struck look. Korra flashes one to Mako and Mako gives a confused look, implying he’s above it all. Later, one of the scenes involves Bolin asking Mako about what he thinks of Korra as girlfriend material. This scene is really more unpleasant in hindsight. Mako states that Korra is “great”, but it “makes more sense” to go for Asami. Now I do have issues with Mako’s sudden romantic feelings for Korra, but what really bothers me is what happens after Bolin corrects him. When Bolin tells Mako that he really likes her, Mako tells Bolin that he shouldn’t date her. Mako is playing keep away with Bolin over a girl they both like. He doesn’t want Bolin and her dating because Mako wants to keep Korra strung along, and most importantly, single should him and Asami fall out. Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t notice how awful of a thing this was to do to Bolin, Korra and Asami. I mean this is the guy that is supposed to be the caring, supportive brother? Telling him to not ask a girl out because he secretly wants to keep her single? So he’s also possessive over a girl he isn’t dating. Great.
Throughout the episode Mako just has despicable moment after despicable moment. He turns Korra down when she asks him out. That’s fine. That is actually what I expect him to do. However, after Korra and Bolin’s date, he immediately confronts her. His excuse is that he doesn’t want to see Korra using Bolin, which would be fine if it was true, but Mako has shown he doesn’t care what Bolin thinks about Korra. Mako wants to keep Korra single. A fight happens, they kiss and Bolin has to watch it. I really hate how they portrayed Bolin’s heartbreak; as a joke. What I hate more is how Mako treats Bolin the next morning. He blames Bolin for liking Korra and having his heart broken. At this point, I honestly no longer believe he is the caring, responsible brother the show paints him out to be. The episode ends, Mako never apologizes to Korra, and Mako and Korra allegedly learned nothing.
I have no problems with Episode 6. In fact, Mako hugging Korra after her fight with the Equalists is one of the few, genuine moments I like something his character does.
In Episode 7, Korra overhears a conversation Hiroshi Sato has on the phone and comes to the conclusion that he is working for the Equalists. When Mako is informed, his reaction isn’t something reasonably such as “Look, Hiroshi sponsored our team. He took me and Bolin in after our home was destroyed. He’s a great guy! There is no way he is an Equalist.” No, no, no. That would be realistic and reasonable. Mako’s reaction is to accuse Korra of being so petty, cruel and jealous of his relationship with Asami that she would accuse and innocent man of being a part of a violent terrorist organization just so she can have Mako. Yes, I also think you’re pretty amazing, but also that you’re petty, cruel and envious that I would honestly think you would do such a thing. He then issues her an ultimatum, drop the investigation or their friendship is over. Because that is how friendships work, on conditions. Let’s say I get why Korra started liking Mako. I don’t know why she would still like him after this. I know I wouldn’t. I don’t know anyone that would. In the end, Korra is right and Hiroshi Sato is revealed to be an Equalist. Mako’s response? “I’m sorry, but Hiroshi being an Equalist is a hard sell.” You know, don’t apologize over thinking she is such an awful person she would be willing to send an innocent man to life in prison just so she could date you.
This episode is where a lot of the accusations of Mako being abusive come into play, because I know a lot of people who have been in emotionally and physically abusive relationships where their partner acted like Mako did in this episode. They issue ultimatums such as “If you do this, I’ll break up with you.” They always think the worst of their partner and are accusatory towards them. I am not saying that Mako is abusive. But that his actions can be compared to real life abusive partners I’ve met in my life is just wrong. His treatment of Asami near the end of the episode bothers me as well. I know he might have meant well with his “Stay here. I’ll find out for you” speech, but he comes off as possessive and controlling, especially with how he acted towards Korra earlier in the episode and series. This is where I officially lost all patience with Mako.
Episode 8 is fairly tame. Mako flirts with Korra right in front of Asami. This is one of the infuriating things about Mako’s character. He is just written so inconsistently. One episode, he thinks so lowly of Korra that he honestly believes she would wrongfully send an innocent man to jail just so she could date him, the next he’s all flirty with her. It’s infuriating.
Episode 9 is when the awful writing affecting Mako spills starts to hurt other characters. Plenty of people have written extensively about this already. Mako is extraordinarily concerned with saving Korra, to the point where he is willing to burn and Equalist’s face off to get information about her. This bothers me for a number of reasons. Mako’s reaction to a loved one in danger has already been shown in episode 3. Mako was informed that Bolin was recruited to fight with the Triple Threat Triads in an all out gang war. This meant that Bolin could and likely would be killed and/or tortured by the rival gang just so they can make an example of him. Mako’s reaction was actually commendable. He was seriously concerned, but he managed to keep his cool. When they approached the Triple Threat Triad’s clearly damaged headquarters, his response wasn’t to barge in and start demanding for his brother or else. Mako kept a cool head and approached the area stealthily. With Korra on the other hand, he is just driven mad with concern for her. It makes no sense and it boggles my mind.
Plus, Mako is the only character who appears to be seriously concerned about the kidnapping. You would think Bolin would be freaking out as well. He knows what it’s like to be kidnapped, and he doesn’t have as good of grasp of his emotions as Mako allegedly does. What about Tenzin? Tenzin is much more aware of how important the Avatar is to the world. He has also spent all but one episode in this season forming a parental bond with her. You would think he’d be as seriously concerned as Mako is here.
By the end of this episode, Korra returns home safe and sound no thanks to him or anyone else and Mako, the petulant little pissant that he is, pushes Lin and Tenzin away from Korra demanding that they give her some space before he takes her in his arms and gently strokes her cheeks. Is no one else bothered by this? I mean, if my girlfriend had been kidnapped and we were 18 and 17 respectively, I don’t think I would push her responsible father figure away just so I could be the one to carry her. I mean this is just weird, whether he likes her or not. And the show expects me to squee and swoon over Mako stroking her cheek. Out of context, it is pretty sweet and romantic looking. In context, with everything we’ve seen of him over the series and what he did to Lin and Tenzin to get that moment, I’m honestly physically repulsed by it.
Also, Bolin had to be the one to tell Asami about Korra and Mako kissing. I’m honestly not surprised, so let’s move on.
Episode 10 beings with Mako waiting by Korra’s bedside, holding her hand while Asami watches. This is awful not just because Mako has a girlfriend. Even if Mako single, this scene would still bother me. Even if he was dating her it would still bother me. I mean you worry about friend and lovers when their in the hospital or bedridden, but even I leave to take care of other things or when hospital hours are over. This creeps me out. This bothers me the same way Edward Cullen does when he tells Bella that he likes to watch her sleep. And why would you be so callous, so insensitive as to do this in front of you girlfriend?
The next major scene Mako is in involves Asami telling him she knows about the kiss. Mako’s immediate response is to get angry and blame Bolin. Yes, what a loving and supportive brother. I would like this scene more if I wasn’t clear the writers meant for me to hate Asami for it. At the end of the episode, Mako wraps Korra in his arm and carries her away while Asami looks on evilly. It comes across as Mako taunting Asami for the argument earlier.
To me, Mako as a character is unsalvageable. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to like him. Not only do I have major, major problems with him in nearly every episode he is in, but I hate what he has done to Legend of Korra. Mako might be all over the place character wise, but he only brings one thing to the table; the love triangle and the drama it brings. It’s awfully written, it’s unwanted and it and the effect is having on the characters is detrimental to the show where I honestly am not sure I like it anymore. I was honestly looking forward to the series about Korra learning that the Equalists aren’t a problem that can just be beaten into submission. I was looking forward to her growing up and living up to the legacy Avatar Aang had left. Mako wavers between being torturously dull and series ruinously awful. I’ve disliked characters in the past. I’ve disliked a lot of them. But I don’t think I’ve hated one in a show I otherwise loved to the point where I am seriously regretting even giving Legend of Korra a chance.
This isn’t about him being evil. There are evil characters that don’t bother me to the extent that Mako does, and much of that is because the show wants me to think of Mako as a good person. It wants me to like him despite all the things listed here that prevent me from doing so. It wants me to love seeing Korra and Mako eventually get together. Mako is just unlikable to me, and he doesn’t need to eat babies and kick kittens to do so. He just needs to be as poorly written as he is.
At this point I’m just sick of Mako. I don’t want him to have a character arch that redeems him. I don’t want his character to end up happy. I don’t want his character to lose his bending. I don’t even want him to die. I just want him to go away. I want him to leave the show and never get mentioned again. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this negatively about a character and what they did to a series.
I hope those who like Mako and the Makorra ship will look at things a little differently because of my post. At the very least I hope you at least see where I and many others are coming from when we talk about how much we can’t stand this character. I honestly don’t see how I’m supposed to like him and from what creators on the show have said, they don’t understand why his character is getting this huge backlash and that seriously disturbs me. I honestly did not go into Legend of Korra expecting to come out this disappointed and angry.
This was one of the most disappointing elements to me, because ATLA was a very feminist series that carefuly avoided a lot of common sexist pitfalls while creating a large and varied cast of empowered women who could choose to embrace or reject femininity to any degree without being treated as less for it. It wasn’t perfect, but it did a damn good job with the ladies. LOK…was really problematic on this level.
Let’s look at a few points:
- There is not a single significant female character over the age of ten who hasn’t had to compete with another woman for a guy. This plays into that gross old stereotype that women need to view each other as rivals and competition, and prevents strong relationships between women from forming. Hell, Pema even encourages this behavior and Korra follows it. Even worse, Korra only feels guilty about kissing a taken guy when his brother finds out. Asami? Who the hell cares if Asami got hurt! Women are supposed to hate each other, right?
- Femininity is treated as inferior. Asami is easily the most feminine of the cast, and Korra judges her for it and thinks she’s ‘prissy.’ She doesn’t earn Korra’s respect until she shows that she has a traditionally masculine interest in racing cars. Until that point, Korra acts like a total brat around her, making faces behind her back, assuming the worst of her, being ungrateful and rude and hostile when Asami had never been anything but nice to her. This plays into the ‘other women as competition’ trope, but Asami has to do things that are unfeminine to make Korra be even remotely civil to her. It should not fucking matter if Asami wanted to take her shopping instead of car racing. And Korra’s judgement of her really isn’t treated as problematic! The most you get is, ‘don’t judge the girly girl, because maybe she does non-girly stuff too!’ Bullshit. There is nothing wrong with enjoying feminine things, and Asami certainly isn’t less for it.
- There aren’t any really strong female relationships. The best we get is Korra and Lin, but this is vague and poorly developed. Hell, they bond in episode six and then hardly interact until the finale. I have a hard time buying this relationship. Korra and Asami is even weaker; as previously mentioned, Asami has to earn a teaspoonful of Korra’s respect and friendship by showing her something masculine. Korra is decent to Asami for all of five minutes when she tells Mako to go to her, and then she appears to forget that Asami exists as anything more than the person who drives the car. They never talk, they don’t even say goodbye to each other in the finale. Calling that a friendship is downright laughable. Korra gets along with Pema, but the only time they actually really talk involves Pema indirectly encouraging Korra to ‘steal’ Mako. Similar with Korra and Tenzin’s girls; I can’t recall the three of them ever talking about anything other than Korra’s love life.
- The only main protagonists to lose their bending were women. We are given physically strong women, but it really undermines it when they have their power taken away and, even worse in Korra’s case, have to be saved by a man. The ending was downright insulting; we’re expected to read Korra as a strong, independent woman, but in the last episode she’s more of a damsel in distress who has her happy ending given to her by a man without having to work for it herself.
I’m hoping the second season will be less gross on this level, but my hopes are just not very high at the moment.
You would think a series centered on a young female Avatar would portray women alot better. Nope, ATLA is still better when it comes to female relationships/dynamics etc. Seriously, Bryke, wtf?
Instead of complaining the shit out of it.
I’m surprised no one took this on yet.
First off, in LOK, the main protagonist, who is a girl, has HUGE MUSCLES. That states the obvious- that girls can be physically strong too.
Korra having “huge muscles” doesn’t equal female empowerment.
Also, it shows the mental strength of girls, like how Asami handled her father, and how korra handles this great big duty of being the world’s savior (and her crying scenes are vital too, to show she is human).
While I agree that Asami was able to handle her father well enough, Korra did not handle the duty as the Avatar well AT ALL. She basically crushed the movement of a disenfranchised group of people by fainting and running into things without a real plan. And every time she cried, she got what she wanted. This is not a good portrayal of women in LoK. Crying is good, but crying only to have things handed to you is not.
Korra also didn’t hate on Asami for being with mako- she actually tried becoming with friends with her. (jealousy and hate are two different feelings, people).
No one said that Korra hated her, but she didn’t treat her well at all. As the article that you obviously didn’t read stated, Korra made faces behind her back and constantly called her things like “prissy” because she was the competition. She only showed Asami any semblance of respect when Asami had engaged in a traditional “man” activity, that being racing. Even after episode 7, they rarely spoke again.
And don’t freak out over asami being girly. Girly girls exist, too. Asami is a badass girly girl.
No one said that her being a “girly girl” was bad. Actually, that was what Korra said. I don’t think you even read the post you’re trying to argue against.
Of course, if you think LOK is stereotypical, continue thinking so. I just wanted to point out that some of us fans go to such lengths of complaining that we don’t look at the whole picture. Cut the complaining guys. Please just be happy with this awesome show.
We’re going to continue to complain because 1) all the arguments you listed were not good and 2) this show is problematic and we have a right to point out its problems.
Don’t ever tell me to be satisfied with shitty shit, OP. :I
Been a while since I wrote a piece of Korra analysis, so I figured it was high time to get back on the wagon. As a note, this will not be flattering. Just so you know that going in.
I’ve been thinking about it lately, and in my view the failings of “Korra” as a series stem mainly from Bryke’s refusal to problematize or flaw their protagonists in any major way.
Korra’s privileged status is brushed under the rug with a shrug when she basically says “Poverty? What’s that? I got everything handed to me growing up.” Barring one sidelong glance from Mako, it never gets brought up again.
Korra driving a wedge between Mako and Asami’s relationship is painted relentlessly as Korra putting it all on the line in order to lay claim to her “soul mate”, and most all of Asami’s feelings about this are disregarded as being paltry and insignificant. Mako’s pulling of what I like to call a “Scott Pilgrim” is excused as him being a confused adolescent in the ways of love… despite the fact that growing up an orphan on the streets has clearly aged him into an adult in every other possible way, far before his time. But hey, he’s a protagonist, so he gets a pass from the narrative judgment corner.
Likewise, the designation and rigidity of the protagonists leaves little to no room for well-rounded or sympathetic people on the other side of the conflict. All we see from the Equalists in terms of a leader-figure is Amon, and he’s painted pretty starkly as an extremist terrorist. Not once is a moderate faction of Equalists seen in numbers large enough to stand on their own as a political group. And in the same vein, not once is a moderate Equalist political figure seen vying for a seat on the Republic City Council, or at least preaching reconciliation rather than using destructive rhetoric. Clearly, the massive size of the rally Hiroshi presided over in the finale was meant to convince us that all of the Equalists were in attendance, because surely none of them had issues with the fact that Amon was about to brutally murder a large chunk of Republic City’s civilian (and likely also non-Bending) population with a bunch of high-powered explosives. Not once was there a scene of any Equalists looking on in horror at the carnage caused by said bombing attack, or a moment of pathos as a Bender and non-Bender helped each other rebuild their devastated homes.
Because we can’t have our designated antagonists be sympathetic, now can we? The series only comes close to that rarely, and it hedges its bets even then. There’s the moment when Korra is forced to confront the fact that not all Equalists are terrible people when Tarrlok finally decides to go full-on Fascist in the slums. This moment of sympathy from Korra is quickly brushed under the rug and never spoken of again, however, and the scene shifts instantly back to the ongoing power struggle between Korra and Tarrlok, with Mako and Co. being used as the pawns.
Another moment is Amon’s betrayal of the Lieutenant. Which, although poignant, happens simultaneously with Amon’s assault on Korra and, as such, gets backburnered. We don’t even get a flashback from the Lieutenant’s POV, or an apology from Amon. Lieu just gets chucked into a pile of boxes, and then Amon goes back to terrorizing Korra’s soul. And it says something that that moment of betrayal was far more heart-wrenching than anything that happened to the protagonists, period. And yes, that includes Lin’s Bending being taken away, because the Finale completely ruined that moment for me in hindsight.
In order to get to the core of what causes this dissonance in tone that Korra seems to suffer from so badly, I’m going to bring two other series onto the discussion table: “Game of Thrones” and “The Wire”.
These series might seem wildly different at first glance, but they have one incredibly important thing in common with each other that Korra lacks entirely: they’re written more as tragedies than as straight-forward heroic narratives.
I mean that in the sense that they have casts full of flawed, realistic characters, and no demarcated protagonists or antagonists. Their narrative structures don’t force us to judge any given character in a particular way. Nor does the writing itself bend over backwards to excuse or gloss over anyone’s flaws, as “Korra” is guilty of.
In “Game of Thrones”, each House has sympathetic and unsympathetic characters. There are people we like and root for, and people we outright despise— but the people we like and root for often have amoral or unlikable characteristics, and the characters we originally dislike very often redeem themselves through their actions in the narrative. By not forcing a particular view on its audience, the series allows for each of us to interpret the characters as we see them, flaws and all.
“The Wire” is also quite similar, in that there are cops and politicians on the anti-drug side of the war on drugs that act just as corruptly and lawlessly as the drug dealers whom they fight against. And there are drug dealers who’re literally just kids, forced into life on “the corner” by social circumstances that they had no way of directly influencing themselves. Anyone who’s seen the show will understand what I mean when I hold up McNulty, Prez, Wallace, Stringer Bell and D’Angleo Barksdale as proof positive that “The Wire” lets its characters tell their stories, and leaves judgment solely up to you as the viewer.
So, why did I mention those two other series, and particularly in a tragic context? Because “Korra” is a series that tries— and fails— to fit a tragic story inside of a heroic mold. It shies away from moral complexity and ambiguity at the same time its core narrative demands a multi-faceted approach. The only time it comes close to embracing a tragic stance on its narrative is in the resolution of Tarrlok and Noatak’s narrative arcs, but even then the conclusion rings false and empty. Are we supposed to get pathos out of Tarrlok’s murder/fratricide/suicide? Is that really a convincing way to wrap up their “sad story”? Wouldn’t a flash-forward scene of the two of them, years later, having a short conversation to show that they’d put their demons behind them have been much more fulfilling?
The closest parallel to this I can think of is Achilles’ reconciliation with Priam at the end of the Iliad: how much emptier would that scene have been if Achilles had chosen to kill himself as penance for his mistreatment of Hector’s body, as opposed to coming to the recognition of what he had done, what it had truly cost, and weeping alongside his enemy in shared knowledge of war’s horror and inhumanity?
The failings of “Korra” stem from Bryke trying to grapple with concepts that the confines of their story doesn’t allow them to properly express. Be it an executive decision from Nick’s overlords not to make things too dark, or Bryke’s own decision not to over-complicate their narrative, the poignancy of the story suffers for it either way. Yes, “Game of Thrones” and “The Wire” are more adult-oriented series than “Korra”. But the fact remains that “Korra” still tried to deal with concepts on that more mature level, and botched it.
If you know going into writing a story that you won’t be able to treat a certain kind of plot point with the gravitas and respect it deserves, the answer to that quandary is simple: leave that plot point out, rather than trying to take the middle road between two choices and ending up with a 7-10 split at the end of the day.
This is the last major piece of “Korra” analysis I’ll be doing, unless someone takes the time to send me an ask specifically requesting my opinion on something.
Thanks for reading!