TV to Books: Legend of Korra

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I really struggle to keep my cool when someone praises Legend of Korra. My roommate is one such person. *eyetwitch*. Anyway, I get so incensed when I think about LoK that I can't even form a straight answer. However, this guy did! A fantastic answer to the question, "Why do you think Korra is a shit series?" (Original post at Linked to in the EXTERNAL LINK) He only scratched the surface of why LoK is an insult to humanity, but this is a good overview of some of the bigger issues. I can write a novel on this topic, so if you have any specific questions or want examples of LoK vs. ATLA, feel free to ask.

The point of this chapter is to ensure you all know that LoK characterization and storytelling is NOT something to emulate in your writing. You basically have to do the exact opposite for most things in that show.

For the record, Avatar: The Last Airbender is hands down my favorite show of all time (especially the first two seasons). LoK made me want to hurl becuase it completely shit on its predecessor and is an embarrassment not only in comparison to ATLA, but in comparison to every other cartoon out there. The values and messages LoK teaches is so asinine and f*cked up, and I feel really sorry for the little kids watching this show being taught Korra is some kind of hero they should look up to.

Anyway, enough of my ranting. Here's someone else's ranting:

Aren’t you in luck I actually wrote down an answer for this for a colleague of mine just yesterday. 

1.) Korra isn’t a strong character. People constantly tell me Korra is such a strong character, a hallmark of feminism, a role model for young girls. But I just don’t see it.  She might be one of the most accurate teenage girls ever written by way of the fact that she never grows. She never sees any other way of solving her problems other than beating them into submission and is dismissive of any other tactful well thought out approach. And a Feminist hallmark? She rejects ideas of femininity and is constantly pulled back and forth by men, adding masculine traits to a female character doesn’t make a feminist character. I mean I’m not trying to take away anything that gives women strength. If they see Korra as a pillar that gives them strength, then damn straight they should harness that strength. There obviously is a vast deficit between male rolemodels and female role models in media but that doesn’t mean we should be scraping the barrel with characters like Korra and putting her up on a pedestal of feminist ideals. But hey, I’m a white, middle class male, take my view on feminism with a grain of salt. 

2.) LoK never ties up its loose ends. Every season leaves plot strings dangling that don’t get resolved. At the end of season 1, what happened to all the Equalists. Just because Amon went down the whole group disbanded? Did Korra go around and give each person Amon took bending away from single handed? Even the criminals? At the end of season 2. All the spirits are still fucking in the city and the water tribes should be in disarray. None of that shit is fixed. Bolin just stopped doing movers entirely? Shit just left up in the air.

3.) Forced character growth happens so much in LoK. People will change at the drop of a hat to drive home the contrivances in Korra. In season 3 Kai suddenly goes from a thief who only cares about himself to some sort of people’s hero in the span of a day. Jinora suddenly had to be useful so they gave her Deus Ex Machina spirit powers. Bumi couldn’t just be Bumi so he had to become an airbender and then after that be convinced that the only reason he mattered now was because he can airbend.

4.) That fucking love triangle they got rid of just to add more pointless romance to that is hashed up in minute moments. Jinora and Kai? I’m gonna fucking hurl.

5.) And speaking of those two, LoK has some of the most inconsistent power levels for its characters. Kai goes from being able to chump 2 Dai Li agents with his airbending to being captured by non-bending bison wranglers. And people keep saying Jinora is just as good at airbending as Tenzin, yet she never displays that. She ALSO gets captured by non-bending bison wranglers. THEY SHOOT HER WITH A NET GUN. Bolin goes through all that trouble trying to learn to metal bend, finding out maybe he isn’t special just to be like OH LOOK I CAN LAVA BEND I GUESS I AM SPECIAL. Mako can sometimes use lightning but also sometimes cant? 

6.) Almost no one has ANY depth. Everyone is exactly who they are on the surface in LoK. Characters in LoK are tropes. Korra is the lead. Bolin is the comic relief. Mako is the straight man. Asami is exempt because she’s actually not terrible. Tenzin is the blustery old guy. Bumi is the crazy old guy. Pema is the mom. Tenzin’s sister is the cool aunt. Lin is the tough girl. They are all just fucking tropes with no complexity. Last airbender had these tropes but they were constantly subverted. Sokka was the comic relief but was a brilliant tactical genius. And it’s even worse for the villains in LoK. They all turn out to be violent extremists. None of them have any true deep motive. It’s ridiculous. Amon starts out as this great symbol with a true statement about benders oppressing non-benders with power which would be interesting but they never DISCUSS THAT. Unalok is just a fucking generic badguy and Zaheer is literally a violent anarchist. In last airbender we spend as much time with protagonists as we do antagonists. Zuko has the best character growth of any character in any piece of media. It’s 3 seasons of amazing, not forced, not rushed, well earned growth, culminating in an amazing character with flaws and strengths and life. 

7.) I’m going to award the show some points for Varrick. He is actually the best. Hands down.

8.) But he’s sidelined by the show because it has no idea how to let its characters shine through anything but combat. And the combat is beautiful. Its well choreographed and well executed. But characters should shine when they aren’t fighting. Its what makes us latch onto them. Its what makes the action have stakes. Korra doesn’t have stakes. In fact it went from world ending peril in season 2 to some guy killing a queen in season 3. 

9.) It has no idea what its message is. It has no idea if its for spiritualism, for technology, for growth, for ancestral roots or even for a combination. It has no idea if Korra embodies the avatar way or if she denies it. It has no idea if Mako is a decent guy. If Bolin is self aware of his own goofiness. If Asami knows she’s surrounded by idiots. It just cant pinpoint where it wants to be and what’s worse?

10.) Its just not as compelling a story as Last Airbender. I know Airbender had more time to work with and is like lightning in a bottle but honestly. Korra is so much less interesting to watch on screen than Aang. Aang’s story was about facing the responsibilities you run from, which for him were ultimately the responsibilites of the world. About becoming the avatar and seeing the landscape change around him as he changed himself. A story about war and the people we lose because of war. Not just because of death but because of conflicting viewpoints. And how those viewpoints can turn men against eachother, how it can make good people do desperate things and bad people do even worse. But it was also about the friends we make in times of struggle and how those friends can become our families. It was about seeing the cultures of many people and what that means to us as a world. It was about never giving up on people, or ideals, or goals. Korra isn’t about a journey. Korra faces the problems that crop up like Batman fights street crimes. She’s already the avatar. She revels in being the avatar. And in the first season she realizes that nobody gives a shit. So what you’re the avatar. Things have changed. It’s about politics now. Its not gods and kings anymore. Its about rights and democracy. What the show should have been about is Korra finding herself as a PERSON. Because she isn’t one. She’s the cultivation of training. She’s a tool. And she stays a tool. Throughout the whole series Korra is just a tool for people to use to get things done. And she may thrash and protest but she always submits to the designs of others. She’s defined by her powers she doesn’t give definition to them. The best superhero mythos are about the people behind the mask that give poignancy to the actions done IN the mask. Korra is just so less interesting to watch. She just loud and abrasive. She’s strong but dumber than a sack of hammers and twice as arrogant. Compare the two first lines of each avatar. Aang’s “Do you want to go penguin sledding?” to Korra’s “I’M THE AVATAR YOU GOTTA DEAL WITH IT.” which is exactly how those two are for the rest of the show. Aang is a kid. He loves fun. He wants to penguin sled and ride big dragonfish. Korra is a self obsessed, hard headed brat. But where Aang grows and learns about his responsibilities despite never losing his sense of wonder and fun. Korra never becomes a person. She’s just the avatar. And that’s just boring.

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