the_croupier: (Default)
[personal profile] the_croupier
Don't get me wrong: I like Legend of Korra, but....

First, I need to point to this, which nails many of the problems I saw. But here are the things that stood out most for me:

1) Iroh shows up with a fleet--which apparently was a one-man fleet, because after he's saved by Korra--where are all his men? Dead? Every last one? Then shouldn't we get even a slight pause to--I don't know--acknowledge the loss of, possibly, hundreds of men and women?

And if they're not dead, where the hell are they? Are Korra's writers incapable of writing stories that involve more than seven or eight people?

2) Could the Korra/Mako relationship feel more forced than it is? Granted, I was never entirely convinced by Aang/Katara, but that at least had substance to it. Korra/Mako has been railroaded from the start. And worse, it's simply not interesting.

More to the point, it's been done. We've had love triangles in the Avatar universe before--plenty of them. Are Korra's writers incapable of coming up with a different approach to romance?

Also, what exactly was wrong with Mako/Asami? Does it demean the Avatar somehow if another woman is allowed to be the object of desire of the male lead? Is a female Avatar only legitimate insofar as she's desired by the alpha male? Is she not really a credible Avatar otherwise?

3) Given how few characters there are in Korra, the way Asami has been largely ignored is lamentable. She was brought in just long enough to have the start of a relationship with Mako and be a hook into the conflict with her father, Hiroshi. And then she is immediately set to the side. She's barely a presence except when it's necessary to highlight Hiroshi (or to moon after Mako), and even then, her struggle with Hiroshi happens--most egregiously in "Endgame"--with no support whatsoever from Korra or the rest of the team.

Granted, Korra has an understandable obsession with Amon which blinds her to other concerns, but that's no excuse for the rest of the team. Mako, in particular, comes off as quite the douchebag in this respect, but it's the writers who are at fault here. Is Asami part of the team or not? Considering how Hiroshi's inventions wiped out Iroh's fleet and have stymied Team Avatar at every turn, how is it possible that stopping him has been ignored and left to Asami as an afterthought?

Are these really the writers who gave us the first series?

Add to that the fact that Asami is the only major non-bending character. Her being sidelined like that is--well, actually it goes along with the most troubling aspect of the entire season:

4) Is anyone else more than a little bothered by the entire Equalist/Bender debate? Or rather the lack of a debate? Why have we had no serious discussions about the claim that benders are a privileged class in Republic City? Benders dominate the council. The police force is staffed by benders. Criminal gangs use bending against non-bending citizens.

You don't have to be a card-carrying member of the Occupy movement to find the dominance of benders in positions of power in Republic City a bit.... odd for an American series, particularly one directed at a young audience. The attitude of the main characters toward Amon's argument can only be described as outrage at having their privileged standing questioned. How dare he question the Avatar? Doesn't he know his place?

This is potentially ugly, ugly stuff we're talking about here. Reframe 'bending' as race or gender or sexual orientation, and ask yourself how you'd feel about this series then. And yet, no discussion of this whatsoever? Only righteous outrage from Korra and her bending friends and mentors?

The writers could have balanced this to some degree by how they dealt with Asami. But what we get is a character largely ignored, and cynically used to provide a love triangle for the alpha bending male and female. It's hard not to wonder if the writers consider a non-bending character just not as interesting.

5) On Korra's connecting to her spiritual side and the immediate recovery of her Avatar powers, the post I link to above covers the point very well. But it's worth restating that what we just saw was a team of writers failing to see that they had just set up the second season beautifully: Korra finally has to start working on her spiritual side. Season two would then be a true mirror of the first series, with Korra having to learn what Aang started out with, and her final reward being the connection he always enjoyed with the Avatars past. Along the way, we could have had encounters with Aang, just like in 'Endgame,' but with him playing a Yoda-like part, helping her step-by-step along her difficult path.

Instead, we get an instant resolution, with no effort from Korra required at all. She's not spiritually open at that point. She's depressed and demoralized. That's when connecting to one's spiritual side can start. You don't immediately win at that point. You have to goddamn work for it.

But, instead, we get privilege. The alpha female gets her desired goal simply handed to her. What a tremendous missed opportunity, and what a terrible message to send to kids about how one achieves difficult goals in life.

Seriously, are these really the same writers as ATLA?

6) And then, of course, we have Korra's feeling unworthy of Mako (unconvincing as he is) when she loses her bending powers (which, by the way, she didn't--airbending was all Aang had from the start). Are we to assume that a non-bending woman is unworthy of a bending alpha male?

I realize that a lot of this could be written off as Korra being a teenager with a lot to learn. But the way the show fails to address these issues around Korra, leaves us with Korra's interpretation of things alone. (Even Tenzin basically reinforces Korra's view of the world. He only questions the way she tries to promote it.) If this was a brutally cynical series on HBO or AMC for an adult audience, it wouldn't bother me as much (though it would still be very sloppy writing). But for something on Nickelodeon for, at least in part, a younger audience? That's troubling.

Anyway, very interested in hearing what all of you think.

Date: 2012-06-24 10:55 pm (UTC)
innerbrat: (avatar)
From: [personal profile] innerbrat
I agree with you on a lot of it - and a lot of it boils down to the problems that come with compressing a really dense story into 12 episodes. All through, there have been things I want to be developed fully - Korra's choosing between the two brothers. The pro-bending tournament. Bolin's characterization. So the finale seeming rushed and missing some important development opportunities is par for the course.

I'm still confused about everyone claiming that the Council is all benders. Tenzin is the first air-bender ever to serve on the Council - we know Aang didn't, because the Avatar can't. We know that at least one representative of the Southern Water Tribe in the past has been a non bender. Where do we see the current SWT, EK and FN representatives bending?

I'm not saying the Equalists don't have a point, but their most visible representative is the richest man in the city. The man who employs lightning benders (a technique that was elitist 70 years ago) at minimum wage. The Triads and the Police Force are obvious problems and I hoped that they would be explored beyond showing Tarrlok taking it too far, but the bender/non-bender class division seems to be mostly exaggerated by fandom. At the lowest social level, where most inequalities in society are shown in sharp relief, there is no difference between benders and non benders. I think this is important.

Date: 2012-06-25 01:42 am (UTC)
aberration: Close up of Korra from LoK, her eyes glowing because she's finally in the fucking Avatar state already. (chorus so sublime)
From: [personal profile] aberration
I ... disagree with a lot of what you've said here, but given that a good deal of that is "I just didn't see it that way" or "I don't get how that's unique to Korra," I don't really see the point in hashing through it all. There are only a couple of things that I really want to address:

1) Bending is not race or sexual orientation. It is not any real world privilege. It had not been shown that way in A:TLA, there's no reason for it to be that way in LoK. Just because a social division exists doesn't immediately make it interchangeable with some other social division. It's a construct unique to the Avatar world, and frankly, I don't think this attempt to analogize it to the real world is a very well thought out critique. (Race and gender and sexual orientation, for that matter, are also not interchangeable with one another. They all have vastly different histories, not to even get into issues of intersectionality). But even the most superficial look at A:TLA shows us that the idea of long-standing structural inequality against non-benders is certainly not something that stacks up to real world oppressed groups like racial and sexual minorities.

Not to mention, not every expression of opposition to authority is inherently entirely legitimate. I do think the Equalists have some points, but casting them as inherently righteous simply because they are not the government is simplistic. As [personal profile] innerbrat pointed out, they're being bankrolled by the wealthiest man in town. I've also noted elsewhere that I think it's a bit superfluous to go after the City Council for not being a representative government - well, no kidding, this isn't a world that has representative democracy. We haven't seen the whole derive-sovereignty-from-democratic rule thing happen at all in the AvatarWorld, I'm not sure how it was supposed to happen over the last 60-70 years. I'm hoping that the fact that they now have a second season means that they'll deal with some of this to some extent, given that they seem to be trying to push the AvatarWorld into something more like the 1900s, but as I'm pretty sure they didn't know they'd be getting that second season until the finale was already in production, I can get their focus on Amon as a cult personality villain instead.

But again, I just can't agree with the idea that nonbenders are immediately analogous to real world disprivileged groups. Certain allusions can be made, but I think in this case you have to take the bender-nonbender conflict on its own terms.

2) Again, I don't think they knew they would have a season 2 when the finale was made, so I don't see how I can expect them to have planned for it re: Korra accessing her spiritual side. I guess not that many other people saw it this way, but to me the moment she lost her bending ability, I figured going into the Avatar State would be how she regained it, because that seemed to work with how Aang resisted Yakone's "bloodbending" in the flashbacks. I also just don't see how it was "handed" to her. She'd already accessed her spiritual side in "Out of the Past," I guess considering she's spent the entire season trying to reconcile her nature of handling things head on with a villain who will always be able to counter that approach, meaning she's had to run and be scared and be patient and all these things she doesn't really like to do, it didn't seem like much of a leap for me. Certainly no more so than Aang being in love with Katara and deciding "oh, all right, I'll detach myself from her" in a matter of minutes in "Crossroads of Destiny" (and then not even bringing that whole issue up in the A:TLA finale). I'm not saying it couldn't have been structured better, but "how are these the same writers"? Really?

And I would have felt a lot more uncomfortable if this season had ended on our woman Avatar protagonist just being depowered. Even if it had been written in anticipation of a second season. A not-happy ending can work, but if we're going to put this in gender terms, depowering our woman lead is a pretty typical problematic trope, too.

Also, I don't agree at all with how you interpreted the final interaction with Korra and Mako. I don't like Korra/Mako, but Korra placed value on herself as the Avatar, and Mako flatly rejected it. But Mako feeling that way doesn't exactly solve Korra's own identity issues. Having Korra decide "well, okay, I guess I'm depowered, but the boy still likes me" would've been pretty messed up. This isn't about her being unworthy of him, it's about her needing to deal with her own identity crisis before dealing with him. They had to have someone tell her that their liking her wasn't predicated on her being the Avatar, and yeah, I would've preferred a Team Avatar moment there, but I can't always get what I want. But she would've walked away from anyone in that moment, because while it's true, it doesn't solve her problem. Which is that she is the Avatar, and she can't not be the Avatar.

Also re: this - (which, by the way, she didn't--airbending was all Aang had from the start) I don't get what you mean. Aang only knew airbending at the start, but he was capable of forming connections with all the other elements. He just hadn't done it yet. Korra wasn't in the same position at all, her connections to the other elements were cut off entirely. Even with airbending, that is losing her bending powers when she's the Avatar, who is defined by having connections to all four elements. It goes straight to her identity, which even though she's had to try to develop a sense of independent self and be the Avatar, she can never just not be the latter. Aang's lack of knowledge didn't cut off his connection to that identity, as every Avatar has to go through the process of learning the types of bending. But Korra being incapable of bending the other elements did. Those are just entirely different situations.

And I don't mean this to come off like... I'm mad or something. Sorry, it's hard for me to break out of argumentative-law-student mode sometimes. But yeah, I guess that's just what I think.
Edited Date: 2012-06-25 01:44 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-06-25 03:58 am (UTC)
aberration: Pabu from LoK taking a nap next to an old-fashioned radio. (come to burn your kingdom down)
From: [personal profile] aberration
I've discussed here and here why I think trying to directly compare bending and non-bending to any real world oppressed groups doesn't work. I don't mean to say that fiction can never use allegorical models to make direct comparisons with the real world (for instance, Muggle-born vs. Pure-blood and Cylon vs. Human were clearly constructed around the idea of making real world analogies, even if they themselves aren't real world privileges). However, I am saying that the writers int his case didn't construct bending and non-bending the same way. The history of those groups is tied very directly to the nature of the show's universe, which is so inherently unlike ours that no direct real world analogy exists. I'm not going to go into the specific history of it as shown in A:TLA, because I do that in the first link and I don't really see much point in repeating myself, though if you want to bring up what I wrote there, cool with me.

But moving on, I'm not sure what you mean in bringing up class distinction. From the characters we've seen, the two primary non-Korra benders were Bolin and Mako, who are "dirt poor," while the primary non-bender is the wealthy Asami. If anything, I'd invert your point here - I'd say Asami may not be as inclined toward the Equailsts because, already born into a higher class, she doesn't feel any immediate affects of disenfranchisement due to being a non-bender. (I'd add that Hiroshi has done nothing but spout pretty prejudicial statements - his entire reasoning is just revenge for his wife. Asami discovers his true motives when she hears him call Mako a "firebending street rat" (nice classism there)). It may be the case bending helps one get certain positions within Republic City, but the only clear cut example of that I can think is pro-bending (which hasn't actually helped Mako and Bolin all that much). There were non-bender cops and factory workers, and we know there've been non-bender Council members (which appears to be appointed by the governments of the other Nations - and we know that at least in the cases of the Northern Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, and maybe Southern Water Tribe, their rulers are non-benders).

My point is here: bending on the face of it sure looks like it would inevitably lead to a systematic advantage for benders, and I think there evidence in the show for that to an extent. But I also think both A:TLA and LoK have really limited how far that extent goes. It hasn't really played out the way one intuitively would think it would.

That being said, yeah, I think the Equalists could have been handled better. But I also think there was value in the narrative of Amon as cult personality, and given that he started the whole taking-bending-away thing in episode three, I think it's legit that a lot of people, like Asami, took a firm stance against that side. That's a pretty huge deal in the Avatar World, and I don't think it would be easy to reconcile something like that for someone like Asami, who clearly likes benders even if she's not one herself. (Not to mention here - by episode 7 she's found out her father has kept this huge secret from her, so just on an emotional level I would say it made more sense for Asami to really despise the Equalists.) Which is why I think they went for something like "When Extremes Meet" instead, when Asami and the others protested the targeting of a non-bender neighborhood. Do I think it could've been handled better, or that you're idea of making the Equalist movement more sympathetic could have been more interesting? Yeah. I don't think they could've done it in twelve episodes (as I pointed out elsewhere, ambiguous characters like Iroh and Zuko had a whole 20-something episode season to develop just to get to their starting off point), but it would've been cool. But I don't agree that their decision to go with a different narrative is inherently problematic, at least not to the extent I feel like you were saying.
Edited Date: 2012-06-25 04:01 am (UTC)


the_croupier: (Default)
The Croupier's Ramblings

November 2013

171819202122 23

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 08:28 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios