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Friday, July 17, 2015 

The politics of Korra

A few months ago on Reaxxion, somebody recommended the Nickelodeon cartoon The Legend of Korra, which was a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. But, he got quite a bit of flak by people who disagreed with him, arguing that the politics in Legend of Korra were more like what SJWs prefer, and since the cartoon's made more news lately, I thought I'd try doing some research to see just how Korra was written up. I know that as a USA-produced cartoon, it's done in a mostly anime-style design (and goodness knows there's plenty of mangakas in the west who mastered the same style as their Asian counterparts). And I wouldn't be surprised if Avatar also had political tones, though in Korra, they seem a lot more apparent. And about the villains, what the writer says here is worrisome:
...the villains’ goals are admirable though their means are extreme.
Why should a villain have "admirable" goals? We'll get to more on why that may not be so in a short while. For now, here's something else regarding how in the first season, the heroes lose, even if they keep fighting:
The most interesting thing to notice in retrospect is that the good guys lose more than they win. They basically spend the entire first season perpetually getting the shit kicked out of them. [...]

Men love the underdog, and not a single fight in the series gave me the assumption the good guys were going to win.
Sure, men could like underdogs, but in all due fairness, don't all the moments where the heroes lose actually weigh against the story? I suppose if they finally score a victory in the season finale, that should help, but even so, if there's more losses than wins, that's awfully pessimistic.
Korra learned something from each of her villains. Whether it was Amon beating humility into her, or Kuvira essentially being her reflection, Korra carried her villains with her.
How and why must one learn from a villain, assuming it's on an ideological level? If that's what they're getting at, I'd say that's way too risky. When the post gets to the part about Korra and Asami's lesbian bonding at the end of the series, it says:
As for the final romance of Korra and Asami, I don’t think there was enough foundation for that level of relationship. In an attempt to avoid stereotypes of straight heroes, they walked right into the far blunter stereotype of “she’s tough, so she’s a lesbian.” The fact they gave her a shorter haircut didn’t help. Though in all fairness, she is probably bisexual.
And how does bisexuality make this any better? We'll get to more on why this assumption doesn't work well, and why the part about foundations is sorely mistaken. But for now, I take issue with the notion straight heroes are a "stereotype". Ridiculous. And what about all the LGBT propaganda that's being shoved into showbiz nowadays?

As noted, there was plenty of dissent, and here's one for starters:
The sequel of the The Last Airbender was the biggest piece of feminist and gay-pushing propaganda out there.
It practically butchered the greatness of The Last Airbender making it all about women and how great they are. In the end the main villain even talked it out with the female Avatar. Plus it turned out that she was lesbian - or turned lesbian together with another super-woman who suddenly turned lesbian too. Yeah - men play no negative roles much, because they don't play many roles anyway there.
If that's the case, it's mind-boggling. Another person said:
You forgot to add, that she turned lesbian, together with Asami AFTER BOTH OF THEM dated Mako.

And I agree about gay propaganda-because they never ever mentioned Korra's orientation prior to when it became obvious. And when they did...nothing. Just nothing. This is absurd.

What they did is similar butchery to what is happening in comics. But in comics they take beloved, established character and make him/her gay/bisexual/whatever. Here they CREATED beloved, estbalished character and THEN changed her orientation just like that, by surprise. Absurd and sneaky.
And was there something about Mako that made them think poorly of men, to the point where they'd think homosexuality was the best alternative? Good question. This vaguely reminds me of J.K Rowling's statements when she was ending the Harry Potter series: she said Hogwarts' headmaster Albus Dumbledore was gay. It may not have been established in the books proper, but it was still embarrassing all the same; a perfect way to slap readers in the face after all the loyalty they'd kept to the books, and put a retroactive cloud over all that came before. There have been folks who've been let down. Since Rowling once attacked Rupert Murdoch for the wrong reasons, her take on homosexuality probably shouldn't be a surprise.

I decided to do some further research to see just what this cartoon is like, and discovered the following about the first villain, Amon, leader of the Equalists, whose appearance is reminiscent of V for Vendetta's antagonist:
“Amon is meant to be a mysterious dude; no one knows exactly where he came from or what his ultimate goal is,” he added. “The story was designed so that the viewer discovers information about Amon along with Korra. I think the reason he is so fearsome is that Korra, and in turn the audience, doesn’t quite know who she’s dealing with or how she’s going to defeat him. It’s not a simple case of ‘beat up the bad guy and the hero wins.’ It’s much more complex.” [...]

“We wrote the first season of The Legend of Korra well before the Occupy Wall Street movement, but there you had a large group of people who felt powerless up against a relatively small group of people in power,” DiMartino said. ”For me, these ideas resonate with what’s going on in the world today. With technology growing and accelerating at a pace we can barely keep up with, what is the role of tradition? I’d love for kids to see that their lives don’t have to be controlled by technology, that it’s cool for them to go play outside and use their imagination!”
No, the Equalists aren't portrayed as goodies or their terrorist actions as just. But from what I can tell, it doesn't say their beliefs of "equality" are wrong either. And if DiMartino's saying the Occupiers were going out to play while leaving technology at home, even that's not very accurate. Some of the news reports at the time said people going to their enclaves had portable tech like iPhones. And in this Atlantic article:
Neither side is totally in the right—the city government engages in some serious profiling when it imposes a curfew on all non-benders (recalling a current debate over the racism of stop and frisk policies); the Equalists use terrorist tactics that are all too familiar, endangering citizens, targeting landmarks, issuing ultimatums. My only complaint about the show is that after a season spent exploring these class issues, it wrapped them up a little too tidily in the finale, when the Equalists’ Dear Leader is revealed to have been a bender all along and therefore unfit to represent the non-bending masses. But all in all, it was a pretty ambitious allegory.
So it turns to moral equivalency? That's what it comes off sounding like here, and that's dismaying. I believe the animators said they drew from Hayao Miyazaki's viewpoints, where he doesn't take sides per se either. But honestly, that approach can be bothersome, and ends up leaving more questions than answers.

Now, as I mentioned, Korra is back in the news lately with the announcement that Dark Horse will publish a comic series where she and co-star character Asami continue the lesbian relationship first spotted at the end of the cartoon's run:
The art features the show’s female leads Korra and Asami, whose relationship progressed beyond friendship toward the end of the TV series, which concluded in December. Now, fans will get to see what’s next for two of the most awe-inspiring women in animation as the comic series explores their romance.
And that pretty much refutes any notion there wasn't a foundation. As does this earlier statement by Konietzko himself, that "KorrAsami" has been canonized. His commentary includes stuff like:
There is the inevitable reaction, “Mike and Bryan just caved in to the fans.” Well, which fans? There were plenty of Makorra shippers out there, so if we had gone back on our decision and gotten those characters back together, would that have meant we caved in to those fans instead?
Who said anything about "caving"? It's whether it was insulting to the intellect of fans that matters. Besides, if the animators and their broadcasters really had faith in their project, they would've said Korra was lesbian from the get-go, and not conceal it till the bitter end. This is a complaint I've seen here and there over the years, that when a new character is created as a cast member in mainstream comics, they don't seem to have the guts to state outright that he/she is gay from the introduction, which only proves they're worried about losing audience/fans, and I won't be surprised if Legend of Korra already has lost some, if not all (will self-respecting parents want their children to watch it if they think that's a bad influence?). Konietzko goes on to say:
But this particular decision wasn’t only done for us. We did it for all our queer friends, family, and colleagues. It is long overdue that our media (including children’s media) stops treating non-heterosexual people as nonexistent, or as something merely to be mocked. I’m only sorry it took us so long to have this kind of representation in one of our stories.
If he's worried about mockery, no, I don't think gays and lesbians should be mocked for their mental state. That's practically what must've made some so resentful it hardened their positions to go by that lifestyle. As for the existence topic, here's the problem: if most showbiz should acknowledge LGBT existence, then is anybody allowed to say whether they think it's a negative practice? If not, then why else would he think they might be reluctant? If they can't say they think it's a poor, unhealthy practice, then there's no freedom, creative or otherwise, is there? As a result, Konietzko comes off sounding more like somebody who believes children must be force-fed the notion that this is something perfectly normal and cannot be questioned.

Furthermore, has it ever occurred to him that most people don't want subjects that have become so politicized and polarized to be shoehorned into popular mainstream entertainment products because they wanted to see specific products for escapism and take their minds off said subjects? Obviously, people like Konietzko never think of those things, and it certainly means nothing to their ultra-liberal minds. They don't even think about or do much for their friends, family and colleagues of different ethnicities either, do they? Otherwise, we'd see Finnish, Armenians and Basque, along with their cultural concepts, making more noticeable, emphasized appearances in mainstream US showbiz and pop culture, but alas, we don't.

By continuing what they set up in the TV show's finale in a comics series, one could wonder if that's because they see it as a "safe spot" to do so because of how overlooked comicdom's become, think it's a better place for propaganda, and they realize less people may care for a followup cartoon at this point. That's why so far, there's no telling if we'll ever see Korra produced as a TV cartoon series again so easily, if they want the KorrAsami affair to remain established.

The writer at Reaxxion later tried defending his positions, but even here, there's stuff that's worth taking issue with:
You give Korra a hard time because she never seems to win her own battles, while Aang didn’t either. Let me you remind you that Korra’s first true victory against an antagonist was Kuvira, the character who was a reflection of everything wrong with Korra in the past, while Aang’s first true victory was a deus ex machina.
But if Aang lost a lot of his battles, doesn't that kinda defeat the first Airbender series too? And I'm certainly not giving Korra a hard time. On the contrary, I'm taking issue with the writers/animators who didn't even have the guts to be open and unambiguous about Korra's lesbianism straight from the start. The dissenting comments include:
ALL good characters of males in avatar are JOKES. Men are shown as pathetic. Bolin-comic relief, essentially a Jar-Jar Binks. Mako-guy complately does not know how to behave like a man with relaiton to women and is constantly "confused" about his feelings. Tenzin-typical "fool of a dad". ARE YOU KIDDING ME.

This couldn't be more SJW friendly if Joss Wheddon would wrote it. Come to think of it Whedon did exactly the same thing in Buffy the Vampire Slayer TWICE. Make character gay just be-fucking-cause.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that! Whedon, probably another guy who's just too cheap to create new cast members to fill the roles and state it unambiguously from the beginning. Whatever the animators' stand on Occupy is, their stance on homosexuality is certainly disappointing. And about the new comics from Dark Horse, I assume Mako and Bolin's roles won't amount to much, if they're in them at all? Probably not.

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Good thing I never wasted time on either shows; when I watched Nickelodeon (which broadcast them both) in the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s, it actually had some decent programming. I stopped watching it entirely in middle school when they replaced the shows I loved with crap. By the time Avatar started airing, I was in high school, so I didn't pay attention to it.

Occupy, Tea Party, Avatar, just more symptoms of mankind's growing decadence and laziness. I never could understand the appeal of the Avatar series, too brain-damaging and boring for my tastes. As for your skittishness around lesbians and gays, I don't know why you wouldn't feel "safe" in one of the few places on Earth where being chop-happy over sexual orientation is a good thing.

Hey, Carl.

I never followed Avatar or Korra either, as I honestly found the mythology too hard to follow -- and maybe too pretentious, as I think about it -- plus I have a very low opinion of Nickelodeon and Viacom in general, so I avoid the channel as much as possible. (The only exception is their Ninja Turtles series, and that's because I'm a Turtles fan from long ago.) I was slightly impressed with Avatar, if only they made a series that went against Nick's usual "rerun forever, pretend series never ends, no series finales."

And Korra looks like to be a waste of time, especially the last-minute lesbianism.

However, I'm not as bugged with the heroes losing every now and then, as Boring Invincible Hero isn't a welcome archetype for me (this is why I couldn't stand Kim Possible), but neither is "dysfunctional screw-up who can't win anything." Not to say I want the villains win all the time, but just enough for me to keep interest.

As for the Whedon comparison, yeah, I'd say that's pretty accurate. He was a SWJ hack before everyone eventually wised up to know he's a SWJ hack.

The creators said that it was more or less a fanfiction pairing from the get-go. The fact that they want to hold Korrasami as healthy, normal, and just as acceptable as Mako and Korra, shows that they want the politics pushed, not a good story.

I see this with women's writing; I did not expect it from men. When he said: 'We did this for our gay friends' he did a Metallica: he insulted and alienated his fandom.

So the comic may push the pairing further, I don't expect it to sell well. Insulting fans, especially fans that care, will ruin your only source of money-making.

Never really followed Avatar much either. Never even watched the show when it was all the rage (closest to any exposure was some print ads and MAYBE a glimpse of a LEGO marquee during one of my visits to Mall of America whenever I head to Edina, Minnesota to visit relatives, one that oddly enough seemed to imply that it and Spongebob took place in the same universe, since Avatar was at the surface, while Spongebob was underwater). And quite frankly, the Korra bit was downright low, as was some of the messaging they pushed in that series from what I have heard of it (besides, I don't like sexuality swaps. Didn't like it with Claire Bennet in Heroes, didn't like it with Alex Danvers in Supergirl, didn't like it with Dumbledore in Harry Potter, or more accurately, in JK Rowling's commentary afterwards [even if she wanted a reason for Dumbledore to be associated with Grindelwald, why couldn't she do something like... I don't know, Professor X and Magneto's interactions from X-Men, or even Anakin and Obi-Wan's interactions. That would be effective enough to avoid tarnishing Dumbledore's image of being associated with him.], I sure as heck would not have liked it with Korra had I actually watched the show).

"However, I'm not as bugged with the heroes losing every now and then, as Boring Invincible Hero isn't a welcome archetype for me (this is why I couldn't stand Kim Possible), but neither is "dysfunctional screw-up who can't win anything." Not to say I want the villains win all the time, but just enough for me to keep interest."

Eh, I myself don't mind Kim Possible too much, at least that show was one of the rare Disney shows to be genuinely respectful to fathers (most Disney fare generally depict the fathers in a not particularly decent light, Proud Family probably being the worst of them, though even Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire weren't much better). Besides, I'm not entirely sure I'd say Kim Possible truly was an invincible hero. I definitely remember her getting captured a few times, also beaten as well (heck, a few times she wasn't even responsible for taking down the main villain of that episode). The closest she got to actually becoming invincible was when she went cybernetic due to a lie detector bracelet, and that actually was treated very negatively if I recall. If you ask me, Neo in The Matrix Reloaded came far closer to actually BEING a boring invincible hero due to pretty much tanking all of the fights he gets into (probably the only time he had to actually fight seriously were the times Agent Smith ambushed him. Every other time, he looked as though he barely put any effort in beating his foes, not even against Merovingian's henchmen, and they're the only ones to actually WOUND Neo even slightly.).

That said, I'm also not too upset with heroes losing every now and then either, especially if the loss actually helps the heroes in the long run to make future wins all the more satisfying. However, it should only be once in a while, NOT a repeated constant that if anything makes the heroes look like infinite losers. For the record, I also don't want heroes to win in such a manner that it if anything CHEAPENS any growth they might get. As much as I hate the term, there needs to be a bit of a balance between the two concepts.

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